100 1699 Tetrathemis polleni Black splashed Elf Kozi Bay KZN Mch 2017r 2 100 2339 Tetrathemis polleni Black splashed Elf Thipese LP RSA Dec 2018r 12 100 2344 Tetrathemis polleni Black splashed Elf Female Thipese LP RSA Dec 2018r 3

Black-splashed Elf.     Swartspikkeldwergie.

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Tetrathemis polleni Black splashed Elf Thipese LP RSA Dec 2018r 5
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Short description:

Black-splashed Elf, Tetrathemis polleni, Genus Tetrathemis, Family Libellulidae, small sized with distinctive greenish blue eyes and blue thorax and abdomen. The male has unmistakable dark wing bands.

Key identification features:


  • Face banded yellow and dark brown. Labrum blackish brown. Anteclypeus and postclypeus greenish yellow, edged in dark brown. Frons dark brown in front, dimpled metallic blue  to shiny black above, with yellow side spots
  • Head dimpled metallic blue above with distinct peaks, yellow spots on back of head immediately behind each eye.
  • Eyes dark blue above, light blue (with green and yellow) below (Diagnostic)
  • Thorax all pruinescent pale blue above, yellow on sides with indistinct dark brown and pruinescent blue stripes. When not obscured by pruinosity, interpleural stripe runs above metastigma, obliquely between metapleural and humeral stripes
  • Distinctive dark bands (panels) in both front and hind wing. Some males, females and immature males lack the black panels. Dark veines. Discodial veins4-sided (Dagnostic)Pterostigmas large black. Dark veines
  • Abdomen slender, all pale blue pruinescent above with yellow spots on sides of segments1 and 2. Dark claspers.


  • Similar to males but lack the wing bands.
  • Pronose to grey as in male
  • When young distinctive yellow marks n dorsal thorax (2 dots, 2 lines, 2 dots and a "  ^ " looking from head to wings. In pairs either side of the dorsal carina
Compared with other species:
  • Very distinctive. If bands are not visible identify this species by wing venation, eye colour and yelow markings on lateral thorax (if visible)
Distribution and habitat:
  • Locally common across the warm coastal area, warm low lying areas in the north and north east of South Africa.
  • Open, shallow, rocky, strong flowing savanna rivers.
  • Perches conspicuously in shade or dappled shade, often with wings forward, on a twig over still water.
  • Flight fluttering but strong, returning to perch.
  • Dominant males are searched for by the female with several females visiting.
  • Females lay eggs on the male perch just above waterline. Large numbers of eggs may be visible on the perch
Further reading:
http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_map_afr.php?&database=odonata&grid=2&outline=1&key=0&map=4&spp=%20668540 Books:
A Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa.  p. 168
Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa.   p. 145
Dragonfly Biotic Index   p. 138

The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa.p. 198
Websites of interest
Warwick Tarboton
Watyerberg BioQuest
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
Odonata Atlas of Africa. VMU Number 668540
African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online
IUCN Red List of  Threatened Species
Other Information:
Size Comparison Diagram: Dragonflies and Damselflies

Identification and morphology of Dragonflies and Damselflies
Map of South Africa

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