True Dragonflies

  • Some images

100 1024 Ictinogomphus ferox Common Tigertail Male Modjadjie kloof Nov 2016r 5

104 500 Anax speratus Orange Emperor Febr 2016r 1

100 806 Orthetrum caffrum Two stripped Skimmer Female Mereletta Sept 2015r 4

 Short description

  • Dragonflies are flying insects of the Suborder ANISOPTERA in the order Odonata. They are similar to damselflies, which constitute the other odonatan suborder
General biology of dragonflies and damselflies
  • We provides no overview of the general biology of dragonflies, but three essential facts help understand most of their habits:
    •  they are amphibiotic, so eggs and larvae develop in water, while adults live on land and in the air;
    • they are obligate carnivores, so all species hunt, both as larva and adult; 
    • their reproduction is unique.
  • Because the male holds the female behind her head with the tip of his abdomen, direct sperm transfer between the genitalia (also located at the tip of the abdomen) is impossible. Sperm is therefore transferred indirectly via secondary genitalia at the base of the male's abdomen.


Order ODONATA Fabricius, 1793

Distribution Worldwide

  • Worldwide about ten families are distinguished

Distribution in Africa and surrounding Islands

  • Half of families are found in Africa.
  • Six in South Africa
  • One genus endemic ro South Africa

General identification features

  • Dragonflies are heavy-bodied, strong-flying insects that hold their wings horizontally both in flight and at rest. 100 2620 Aethriamanta rezia Pygmy Basker Male Bang Neck KZN RSA Mch 2019r 12   108 019 Africallagma glaucum Swamp Bluet Male Wolseley Western Cape 15 10 2016
  • Many adult dragonflies have brilliant iridescent or metallic colours produced by structural coloration, making them conspicuous in flight. Their overall coloration is often a combination of yellow, red, brown, and black pigments.
  • Wings are generally clear, apart from the dark veins and pterostigmata. Many genera have areas of colour on the wings: for example, Groundlings (Brachythemis) have brown bands on all four wings, while some Scarlets (Crocothemis) and Dropwings (Trithemis) have bright orange patches at the wing bases. Some  have translucent, pale yellow wings
  • Eyes are  large and touch each other,  100 1840 Anax speratus Orange Emperor Male Close up MP RSA Sep 2018r 16 with the exception of the Gomphidae.  100 1474 Paragomphus cognatus Rock Hooktail Male Wilgerivier MP RSA Nov 2017r 19
  • In rest the wings are held wide, often even pressed down. 100 2620 Aethriamanta rezia Pygmy Basker Male Bang Neck KZN RSA Mch 2019r 12 Only very teneral individuals fold the wings above abdomen
  • Dragonflies live on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Occupy a considerable variety of habitats, but many species, and some families, have their own specific environmental requirements. Some species prefer flowing waters, while others prefer standing water.  Some species live in temporary water pools and are capable of tolerating changes in water level, desiccation, and the resulting variations in temperature, but some genera such as Sympetrum (darters) have eggs and larvae that can resist drought and are stimulated to grow rapidly in warm, shallow pools, also often benefiting from the absence of predators there
  • Vegetation and its characteristics including submerged, floating, emergent, or waterside are also important. Adults may require emergent or waterside plants to use as perches; others may need specific submerged or floating plants on which to lay eggs. Requirements may be highly specific
  • Many dragonflies, particularly males, are territorial. Some defend a territory against others of their own species, some against other species of dragonfly and a few against insects in unrelated groups.
  • A particular perch may give a dragonfly a good view over an insect-rich feeding ground, and males jostles other dragonflies to maintain the right to alight there
  • Defending a breeding territory is fairly common among male dragonflies, especially among species that congregate around ponds in large numbers
Southern African genera

Please click Here for the complete list of genera species visible in southern African