119 039 Black Emporer female I5A3156 119 038 Black Emperor male I5A3181 100 518 Anax tristis Black Emperor 1 Custom

Black Emperor.     Swartkeiser  

Anax tristis Hagen, 1867

Also known as Magnificent Emperor

Moe Imags:
119 046 I5A3196
Click for more
Short description:

The Black Emperor, Anax tristis, Genus Anax, Family Aeshnidae, very large sized, mostly black with a distinctive cream ring at the base of abdomen.

Key identification features:


  • Face all green with blackish basal triangle on top of frons.
  • Eyes green.
  • Thorax green and brown.
  • Wings slightly smoky particularly in central areas, dark brown spot beside membranule. Pterostigmas long (5 mm), reddish brown.
  • Abdomen and appendages mostly black. Segment 1 with cream dorsal patch, segment 2 with wide cream ring running all the way around. Segments 4 to 9 with small cream spots above. Segment 10 black.


  • Similar to male but stouter, shorter, appendages shorter and leaf-like, wings generally fairly smoky
Compared with other species:
  • Unmistakable due to size and markings.
  • The largest Emperor in South Africa.
Distribution and habitat:
  • Found in the warm northern and eastern areas of South Africa.
  • Frequents pools, small dams and waterholes in open or savanna areas. Such pools and swamps may be without water weed or fringing vegetation.
  • Flies low at great speed or unhurried, drifting low and slowly across and around pools. Sometimes cruises at tree top level.
Further reading:
The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa ... . p. 92
A Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa 
... p. 110
Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa ... p. 119
Dragonflies and Damselflies of Namibia ... p. 162
Dragonfly Biotic Index ... p. 110
Websites of interest
Warwick Tarboton
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 664180
African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Least Concern
Other Information:
Size Comparison Diagram: Dragonflies
and Damselflies
Morphology of a Dragonfly, Damselfly

Map of South Africa



Right Click

Copyrighted material - contact us if you want to buy a photo