Smoky Spreadwing, Lestes virgatus Rookspanvlerkie

100 153 Lestes virgatus Smokey Spreadwing Male Mabusa Nature Reserve MP RSA Dec 2017r 11
100 151 Lestes virgatus Smokey Spreadwing Male Mabusa Nature Reserve MP RSA Dec 2017r 9
100 008  Kimiad Pretoria GP RSA Oct 2015 r 6
Family Lestidae      (Calvert, 1901)
Short Description:

Smoky Spreadwing, Lestes virgatus Rookspanvlerkie is fairly large, slender, dull metallic green, striped, and with distinctly smoky wings. The only metallic green spread wing.

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100 011 Lestes virgatus Smokey Spreadwing Male Kimiad Pretoria GP RSA Oct 2015 r 9Image Gallery

100 139 Lestes virgatus Smokey SpreadwingMaler Close up Kimiad Pretoria NGP RSA Dec 2015r 4Male









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 Key identification features:


  • Face greyish green; labrum sky blue; cheeks and mandibles light greyish blue. Head dark metallic green with brown scalloping along back from above.
  • Eyes bright blue above, light greyish blue below with dark flecks (diagnostic)
  • Thorax distinctly striped, multi coloured,metallic green, yellowish brown and dark brown from above, sometimes with some distinct blue; sides greenish brown with light buff-coloured stripes; lightly pruinescent in lower half
  • Wings distinctly smoky brown sometimes with pale indistinct blotches on tips. Pterostigma slight brown, surrounded by dark brown, becoming all dark brown with age.
  • Abdomen is above dark metallic green with partial yellowish rings on S 2-7. Only S 9 pruinescent. S 10 and superior appendages blackish Superior appendages has large coarse teeth along the inner edge. Inferior appendages are pyramid shaped.


  • Stouter than male, reddish and blackish brown, also with striped thorax; underside of thorax buff
  • Wings less smoky than male’s.
Compared with other species:
  • Smoky Spreadwing, Lestes virgatus is the only metallic green Lestes (Spreadwing). It has smoky wings and blue eyes. The pterostigmas swollen and pale centred.
Distribution and habitat:

Distribution Map May 2020Smoky Spreadwing, Lestes virgatus is found from S Cape eastwards through KZN to the northern parts of South Africa New records indicate a presence in the higher altitude areas of LP an GP
Highly seasonal species being highly localised in all the moist forested areas. It occurs at pools with tall grasses, herbs and an abundance of bushes, near trees or in forests; sometimes also found along shady streams.Populations tend to appear and disappear very readily as conditions change.
From 0 to 2700 m above sea level, but mostly between 1200 and 1900.

Mainly a highland species.

  • Hangs with wings outstretched from grass stems. Lays eggs in the stems of sedge grass.
Further reading:

A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Odonata Atlas of Africa. VMU Number 660300


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