Cape Skimmer, Orthetrum julia capicola, Kaapse Skepper

117 514 Orthetrum julia capicola Cape Skimmer
117 515
108 513 Orthetrum julia capicola Cape Skimmer Immature Male Somerset West Western Cape 01 10 2015
Short description:

Cape Skimmer, Orthetrum julia capicola, Kaapse Skepper is fairly large sized, robust with a brownish to bluish, weakly mottled and striped thorax, and a light blue abdomen.

Family Libellulidae Leach, 1815

Special Note:

  • In older books Orthetrum julia is divided into two sub-species Orthetrum julia falsum and Orthetrum julia capicola. Currently the two sub-species are regarded as colour variants rather than sub-species. Much research is still needed to confirm the true identity of these two colour variants/sub-species. Records are emerging from the Eastern Cape area that appears that interbreeding of the two variants occur.
  • For clarity purposes we will continue describing these two species separately
More images 

117 514 Orthetrum julia capicola Cape SkimmerImage Gallery 

124 503 Orthtetrum julia capicola Cape Skimmer Male LP RSA April 2017r 3Male 







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Key identification features:


  • Length 38 - 44 - 46mm, wingspan 60 - 68 - 74mm, pterostigma s3 - 3.5mm
  • Face light grey.
  • Labium cream with central dark brown spear shape that does not the front margin, as in the northern form
  • Labrum is all cream in the Cape form, light grey with a black edge in the northern form
  • Eyes dark turquoise.
  • Thorax mottled brownish with blue pruinescence, bluish green shoulder stripe present, thorax can become all pruinescent blue. Thorax lighter in Cape form with two light greyish blue side stripes, which are not pruinescent. Long pruinescent stripe present between wing bases
  • Wings clear, becoming smoky with age, especially at tips. Small dark brown splashes present at bases of the wings, especially hindwings
  • Pterostigmas reddish brown, blackish brown to black in the northern form.
  • Abdomen of medium build all pruinescent blue (S 7- 10 may be dark disappearing with age)


  • Striped, all light and dark brown, tends to be pinkish in Cape form.
  • Foliations strong, black.
  • Thorax heavily striped all over in northern form.
  • Abdomen segments 1 to 6 alternately striped, segments 7 to 10 almost entirely blackish (may have light brown spots on both sides of dorsal carina.)
  • Wings clear to heavily smoky in some old individuals
  • Pterostigmas dark brown to blackish
  • Frequents mostly streams, but also standing and often temporary waters, headwaters, seeps and springs, mostly shaded by gallery forest, but also shaded by forest, in open areas in forest or open landscapes. Often with a soft (like muddy) bottom, probably pools in stream beds.
  • From 0 to 2500 m above sea level, but mostly below 1600.
  • Conspicuous wherever it perches,
  • Favours grass stems or overhanging vegetation at water. Often chases intruders.
Compared with other species:
  • Orthetrum julia capicola, Cape Skimmer, differs from Orthetrum julia falsum (Julia Skimmer), in having pale not black pterostigmas.
  • Cerci of O. julia falsum has white tip.
  • Males are easily confused with Orthetrum caffrum (Two-striped Skimmer) where the pale diagonal stripes on the thorax are more visible than in O. julia capicola. O. julia Caffrum also has a cream stripe between the wings as opposed to light blue in O. capicola.
  • Females are more rufous than O. julia falsum.

 Distribution Map June 2020 Map








 South Africa:

  • Widespread and common in the Southern and Eastern Cape uncommon with rare records in NCP.
Further reading:

Websites of interest:
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 667890
African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online
The IUCN Red list of threatened Species