Deceptive Widow. Valse-weetjie
Palpopleura deceptor (Calvert, 1899)
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Palpopleura deceptor, Deceptive Widow, Genus Palpopleura , Family Libellulidae, is a greyish, light blue pruinescent species, with black to dark tail tip. Blackish streak on forewings, with a dark spot close to the nodus
Key identification features:
- Face is creamy white Labrum cream with dark brown margin. Frons black above with bright metallic blue sheen. Head shiny black and dimpled with two small ridge-like peaks above,brown with long fine white hairs behind.
- Eyes dark brownish grey above, bluish grey below
- Thorax pale pruinescent greyish blue above,sides yellowish green stripes with irregular regular dark brown outer edges becoming dark blue with brown spots and a creamy stripe towards the lower rear of the abdomen
- Wings with blackish spot near nodus of the forewing. Dark streaks in the front wing leading away from the wing base. Amber markings behind the costa darken with age to well past the pterostigmas to the wing tips while rest of both wings develops a light amber. Pterostigmas are long (4 mm), bicoloured when young with outer half dark brown and with cream patch in inner half that may darken to an almost dark black with age.
- Abdomen is covered in pruinosity while the last three segments stay mainly black with gold/yellow streaks that may disappear with age. Underneath the thorax it has six dots in the form of a lion paw print, with 4 tows and two dots on the heal.
- Wing is similar to male.
- Females and young males are yellow with black stripes and markings when young darkening to pruinose grey Brownish and white with age.
- Abdomen of females and young males are yellowish brown with three rows of black streaks. Yellow and black but pruinose to grey, yellow and black 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. P. lucia P. portia
- Black patches in both wings of the female P. lucia is more extensive than the patches of P. Portia.
- 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.
- 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 patch
Distribution and habitat:
- Fairly common across the warm north eastern and northern areas of South Africa. Recent data indicate the species in the northern GP as far south as Pretori. Dostribution in LP, MP and northern KZN not common but awaits more data to get a more clear distribution picture..
- Frequents standing and mostly temporary waters in open landscapes, open areas in forest or shaded by gallery forest. Usually with emergent vegetation and often coarse detritus and a soft muddy bottom. From 0 to 2000 m above sea level, but mostly below 1500, although possibly up to 2400.
- Females seldom found near the water’s edge. When at the waters edge not easily seen due to the pruinose coloration when older and the observer needs to follow the males for indications of possible females.
- Hunts in a powerful darting flight, returning to a regular perch. In flight it can be misidentified as a skimmer. The strongest flyer of all the Palpopleura species.
Further reading and information: