Pinhey’s Wisp, Agriocnemis pinheyi, Pinhey-soetjie

Short Description:

Pinhey’s Wisp, Agriocnemis pinheyi, Pinhey-soetjie Minute with a black head and small, oval postocular spots, a shiny black thorax with a fine light green stripe,and a black abdomen with a bright orange tip.

Family Coenagrionidae Kirby, 1890

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Key identification features:


  • Face mostly black with unbroken lime green moustache. Labrum shiny black with lime green border, not metallic. Anteclypeus light green.Postclypeus shiny black, not metallic. Cheeks lime green. Lower part of frons (the moustache unbroken from eye to eye and lime green. Head velvety black above with bronze sheen. Postocular spots small, oval, sharp-edged, bright bluish green.
  • Eyes black above, light green below. Neck velvety black with very fine, yellowish green margins.
  • Thorax velvety to shiny black with very fine yellowish green shoulder stripes,lower sides light green. Wings clear. Pterostigmas ranging from yellow to dark greyish brown depending on age and sex.
  • Abdomen shiny black above with the black petering out on segment 8 and finally on segment 9. Sides of segments 1 to 6 lime green. Beginning of segment 7 lime green on the side, becoming bright orange towards back. Segment 8 bright orange. Most of segment 9 and entire segment 10 bright orange.Appendages orange with black tips.


  • Various colour forms, ranging from blackish red  with black band on top of head and black thorax through to brown above and green below.
Compared with other species:
  • Agriocnemis pinheyi, A. exilis (Little Wisp), and  A. gratiosa (Gracious Wisp) are similar. 
  • A. pinheyi intermediate in size between the smaller A. exilis and the larger A. gratiosa.
  • A. gratiosa and A. pinheyi has postocular spots intermediate in size between the smaller ones of A. exilis, and the larger ones of A. gratiosa.
  • A. pinheyi has a fine, thorax shoulder stripe like A. exilis, but not the wider stripe of A. gratiosa
  • A. pinheyi  with unbroken light green moustache runs from eye to eye. Usually in A. exilis  but always in A. gratiosa it is broken by a black division
  • The dorsal, black, abdominal stripe of A. pinheyi tapers in S8 as it does in A. gratiosa and usually S7, but sometimes S8, in A. exilis.
  • A. pinheyi appendages are distinctive with a downward-pointing horn on the inferior appendages ending in a small, slightly upturned hook. Diagnostic
Distribution and habitat:

Mostly in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province. northwards to the DRC, and Tanzania
Standing waters in open landscapes. Usually with emergent and often aquatic vegetation, and probably boggy.
From 600 to 2100 m above sea level, but mostly between 1000 and 1800.


  • Perches slow down in the dense vegetation, often close to the water surface, with its head upwards and abdomen slanting downwards. Difficult to observe. Reluctant to fly 
Further reading:

Websites of interest
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Warwick Tarboton 
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
Odonata Atlas of Africa - VMU Number 662530

Credit  Michael J. Samways & John P. Simaika. Manual of Freshwater Assessment for South Africa: Dragonfly Biotic Index