102 555 malmoth 1 102 552 2017 09 12 natuurpraal ou wyfie  100 1302 Palpopleura portia Portia Widow Old Female Melkrivier LP RSA Sept 2017r 1

Portia Widow.     Portia-weetjie

Images in nature of Palpopleura portia (Portia Widow)
Close-up images for identification assistance.
Male. Old Female.
Please click on images and links to enlarge

Short description:

Portia Widow, Palpopleura portia, Genus Palpopleura, Family Libellulidae, very small to small sized, with a powdery blue body and extensive jet black but deeply indented patches on all wings.

Key identification features:


  • The thorax is mottled brown, with two straight light greenish yellow stripes present on each side of the thorax. The dorsal thorax is pale blue pruinose.
  • The abdomen is short, wide at midpoint, pale pruinescent bluish grey with distinct blackish appendages.
  • Wing has a wave in the basal forewing costa. The wings have extensive black scalloped (indentation) markings. These scallops (patches) vary in shape and size, between individual specimens, but still conform to a basic shape on the male, and an Africa like shape on the females. On both the wings the rear end of the markings are undulating. The outer scallop (patch) on the forewing, sometimes extend across to the hind margin. The black markings extend from the wing root to the Pterostigmas.
  • Little or no yellow is visible on the male wing.


  • Thorax has two yellowish stripes on the side.
  • Wing pattern is similar as male but less extensive, particularly on the front margins, brown rather than black. The space between the antenodal cross-veins (Ax) on the hindwing are brown / black between the subcosta and radial (R1) up to the nodus. The black markings are surrounded by a very light yellow coloration that does not extend to the hind margins.
  • The abdomen is irregular dark brown with yellow stripes over light yellowish brown. The dorsal abdomen yellow stripe become almost invisible pruinescent grey brown with age.
  • The pterostigmas are about equal white and black in size. With age the white part of the pterostigmas will darken to almost as muddy brown.


  • Wing patters on both male and female may differ from specimen to specimen with age.
Compared with other species:
  • Females of P. lucia and P. portia are most like P. portia males, but is difficult to separate. Females must preferably be identified or photographed with males.
  • P portia and P. lucia have dark patches on the wings.
  • Black patches in both wings of the female P. lucia is more extensive than the patches of P. Portia.
  • P. lucia females have an amber patch in both wings that reaches the hind margins of the wings. These patches may also be prevalent in P. portia, but is lighter and do not reach the hind margins of the wings. Female P Jucunda has distinctive dark patches on outer part of both wings, but the male have amber patches in the area where the females have dark patches. P deceptor has long black streaks in forewing only with an isolated dark marking around node.
  • Pterostigmas of P. lucia and P portia are bicolored: half white and half black with black on outer side. The outer black part of the pterostigmas of P. Lucia follows to the last Px vein (on the wing tip) giving the pterostigma a cat nail like appearance P. jucunda has dark brown pterostigmas. Pterostigmas of P deceptor are black with white/cream in inner half.
Distribution and habitat:
  • Common and widespread across the warm eastern and northern parts of South Africa.
  • Frequents Standing and often temporary waters in open landscapes, open areas in forest or shaded by gallery forest. Its habitat is clear, shallow pools, and margins of dams with an abundance of tall grasses and reeds in hot open savanna. From 0 to 2300 m above sea level, but mostly below 1800.
  • It has a darting, reasonably powerful, flight, Returns to previously used perches perch over the water.
Further reading:

The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa
... P 190
A Field guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa .. P 170
Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa ... P 163
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 668200
Warwick Tarboton
African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online

A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Other Information:
Size Comparison Diagram Dragonflies and Damselflies
Morphology of a Dragonfly
Morphology of a Damselfly
Map of South Africa


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