Nesciothemis farinosa, Eastern Blacktail Nesciothemis farinosa Eastern Blacktaill Young Male Hertzogberg MP RSA Nov 2017 Eastern Blacktail Female Jan 2016

Eastern Blacktail.     Swartstertskepper

Nesciothemis farinosa (Förster, 1898)
Images Young Male  Female
Eastern Blacktail Nesciothemis farinosa Eastern Blacktail Close up Male Hertzogberg MP Nov 2017 Nesciothemis farinosa Eastern Blacktail Female Hertzogberg MP RSA Nov 2017
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Short description:

Eastern Blacktail, Nesciothemis farinose, Genus Nesciothemis, Family Libellulidae, fairly large sized with a black head, black eyes, very pale powdery bluish-grey thorax and abdomen. Last section of the abdomen is black with yellow stripes.

Key identification features:


  • Blue thorax
  • Abdomen segment 1-5, like thorax, dense, very pale pruinescent bluish grey. S 6-10 black, with faint yellowish dorsal markings which darken with age, becoming almost black in old individuals. Abdominal s 9-10 never become pruinose and s 7-8 rarely so.
  • Dark claspers.
  • Older males have dark wing tips similar to younger females.


  • Pale stripe on top of the thorax.
  • Wings clear, but brown at tips in young individuals, becoming clear, and finally smoky with age.
  • Abdomen light yellowish brown with a dark brown line running either side of length of abdomen.
  • Distinct yellowish foliations on s8, with dark brown margins.
Similarities with other species:
  • Habits and appearance similar to Orthetrum.
  • Mature Orthetrum (Skimmers) have bluish eyes.In the Easter Blacktail, N. farinosa, the eyes become dark brown dorsally.
  • Mature Orthetrum appear whitish to light bluish, Eastern Blacktail, N. farinosa, contrast with their densely pale pruinose thorax and black abdomen tip.Black-and-yellow when teneral and pruinose with maturity. However, abdominal segments 9-10 never become pruinose and segments 7-8 rarely so, being black.
  • Very distinctive. In the northern and eastern parts of South Africa it may be confused with the Deceptive Widow, Palpopleura deceptor Palpopleura deceptor Deceptive Widow Male RNR GP RSA Mch 2018 found in the same habitat. P. deceptor, has each forewing marked with a blackish streak and spot, and has bi-coloured pterostigmas, unlike the clear (or generally slightly smoky) wings of N. farinosa, with all yellow-brown pterostigmas.
  • The pale stripe on the top of the thorax of the female may be confused with the stripe on the female Two-striped Skimmer, Orthetrum caffrum, Orthetrum caffrum Two stripped Skimmer Male Moreletta GP RSA Oct 2016 but the wings of N. farinosa differs.
Distribution and habitat:
  • Widespread in South Africa.
  • Occurs mostly at low elevations but sometimes reaches 1 200 m elevation. Frequents pools, pans and especially sluggish reaches of rivers with an abundance of reeds and tall grasses.
  • Very conspicuous as it perches on reeds and makes short powerful hunting flight before it returns to its perch. Shase othe species 
Further reading: Books
A Field guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa   p. 166
Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa   p. 159
The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa    p. 179
Dragonfly Biotic Index   p. 155
Website of interest
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 667690

The IUCN Red List of threatened Species

African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online
Warwick Tarboton
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
Other Information:
Size Comparison Diagram Dragonflies,   Damselflies
Morphology of a Dragonfly or a Damselfly
Map of South Africa 


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