Black-splashed Elf     Tetrathemis polleni     Swartspikkeldwergie

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

Family Libellulidae Leach, 1815

Short description:

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

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Tetrathemis polleni Black splashed Elf Thipese LP RSA Dec 2018r 5Images


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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 (Diagnostic)Pterostigmas large black. Dark veins
  • 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.
  • Pruinose 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:

Tetrathemis polleni Black splashed Elf Distribution Map May 2020Locally 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.
From 0 to 1600 m above sea level, but mostly below 200.

  • 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:

Websites of interest
Odonata Atlas of Africa. VMU Number 668540
African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online
IUCN Red List of  Threatened Species
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa


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