100 1895 Palpopleura deceptor Deceptive Widow Male RNR GP RSA Mch 2018r 12 100 1399 Palpopleura deceptor Deceptive Widow Female LP RSA Sept 2017r 1 100 1250 Palpopleura deceptor Deceptive Widow LP Mch 2017r 2

Deceptive Widow.     Valse-weetjie   

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Short description:

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 with dark blue metallic frons.
  • Blackish spot near nodus of the forewing. Dark streaks in the front wing leading away from the wing base. Amber markings behind the coista darken with age to well past the pterostigmas to the wing tips while rest of  both wings develops a light amber.
  • Pterostigmas are long (4mm), dark brown, with cream patch in inner half that may darken with age.
  • The 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 towes and  two dots on the heal. Photo of this marking


  • Wing is similar to male.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • Uncommon across the warm north eastern and northern areas of South Africa. Recent data indicate the species in the northern GP as far south as Pretoria, LP, MP and northern KZN.
  • Frequents shallow pools, marshes and sluggish reaches of streams, with low reeds or grasses of streams, in warm areas.
  • Females seldom found near the water’s edge.
  • Hunts in a 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:
A Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa...p 172
Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa...p 160
Dragonfly Biotic Index...p 156
Dragonflies and Damselflies of Namibia...p. 181
The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa  … P 190
Warwick Tarboton
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species    Least Concern*
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 668180
Other Information:
Size Comparison Diagram Dragonflies, Damselflies
Morphology of a Dragonfly,  Damselfly
Map of South Africa

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