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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

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.

Family Libellulidae Leach, 1815

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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 mature . When not obscured by pruinosity, interpleural stripe runs above metastigma, obliquely between metapleural and humeral stripes When young thorax and abdomen greenish black with yellow markings
  • Distinctive dark bands (panels) in both front and hind wing. The black panels  only develops to full dark spade when mature. 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 segments 1 and 2. Dark claspers.


  • Similar to males but lack the wing bands.
  • Markings on Abdomen less distinct on young males 
  • 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


  • Standing and mostly temporary waters, but possibly also streams, shaded by gallery forest, but sometimes also in open areas in forest. Often pools in stream beds, usually with overhanging branches and coarse detritus, and often a soft (like muddy) bottom.
  • 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 twigs or the male perch above waterline. Large numbers of eggs may be visible on the perch
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 2020








South Africa:

  • Locally common across the warm coastal area, warm low lying areas in the north and north east of South Africa. 


  • Angola; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mozambique; Nigeria; Republic of South Africa; Somalia; Tanzania; Uganda; Zimbabwe
Further reading:

Websites of interest: