White-masked Wisp, Agriocnemis falcifera, Witmaskersoetjie
White-masked Wisp, Agriocnemis falcifera, Witmaskersoetjie is very small, with a black head and a distinct white moustache, shiny black thorax and an orange or black abdomen.
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Key identification features:
- Face bronze black, greenish and pruinescent white. Labrum bright shiny black with mauve sheen. Anteclypeus greenish with brown spots. Postclypeus shiny black with slight bluish mauve sheen. Cheeks greenish blue. Frons forms a distinct pruinescent white moustache in front. Head matt black with a bronze sheen from above. Postocular spots light green or greenish blue, elongated towards the centre of the head, may become pruinescent in old individuals.
- Eyes black above,light green below. Neck shiny black with light green collar and margin.
- Thorax shiny black with fine light green stripes, lower sides light green, becomes pruinescent in old individuals with stripes turning white.
- Wings clear. Pterostigmas with characteristically different colours in fore- and hind wing. Light dirty brown in fore wing, blackish with pale borders in hind wing. (Males only)
- Abdomen above orange with indistinct black line running the length to the end of segment 7 Lower abdomen colour being similar from the lower thorax to s7-8 becoming greenish to orange to s 10. Segments 8 - 10 bright orange above.. Appendages orange. In some old individuals abdomen becomes totally black leaving only fine green or orange rings, especially between segments 7 to 10 .
- Various colour forms ranging from bright brick red with black markings above, through to green and greenish brown, some individuals mostly black with some green below and fine orange rings on tip of abdomen,overall becoming very dark and highly pruinescent with age,
- Pterostigmas light brown in both the fore- and hind wings.
- Prefers swampy margins of pools and dams that have dense stands of grasses, sedge and reeds, occasionally occurring in still reaches of rivers with an abundance of vegetation, open landscapes, but sometimes shaded by gallery forest.
- From 0 to 2000 m above sea level.
- Perches low down among the vegetation close to the water where it is camouflaged among the grass stems
Compared with other species:
- White-masked Wisp, Agriocnemis falcifera is one of the largest Agriocnemis species in SA along with A. gratiosa Gracious Wisp
- A. falcifera pterostigmas with characteristically different colours in fore- and hind wing of the male
- A. falcifera has a very conspicuous pruinescent white moustache and elongated postocular spots
- A. ruberrima is easily recognised by its mostly all orange abdomen when seen from above.
- A.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
- White-masked Wisp, Agriocnemis falcifera Witmaskersoetjie is endemic to South Africa is localised occurring at low elevations along the coastal rim from the WCP through to the ECP and northern KwaZulu-Natal. It also occurs in the LP and GP but at higher elevations between 1 000 and 1 600 m
Websites of interest
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Least Concern
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
Odonata Atlas of Africa - VMU Number 662470
African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online
Credit Michael J. Samways & John P. Simaika. Manual of Freshwater Assessment for South Africa: Dragonfly Biotic Index