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Elusive Skimmer  Mistieke Skepper      

Orthetrum rubens Barnard, 1937

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Short Description:

Medium sized, pale blue with a buff and red thorax, distinctly striped, and with slightly smoky wings.

Key identification features:


  • Length 43mm, wingspan 66mm
  • Face light reddish and yellowish brown, top of head (vertex) shiny black.
  • Eyes bluish grey.
  • Thorax red at sides with two distinct diagonal white stripes with black upper edge, broken light yellow stripe runs along top of thorax, shoulder light yellow with dark, central stripe and two fine outside shoulder stripes.(diagnostic). Small grey patch at the upper hind margin of the white stripes
  • Wings, especially tips and leading edges, slightly smoky brown. Bases of all wings with small orange to basal brownish flares. Venation very fine and net-like, particularly at tips. Leading edges of all wings distinctly yellowish. DC (discoidal cell) in forewing shows 2 cross-veins. Pterostigmas deep yellowish, 3 mm long.
  • Abdomen of moderate thickness, pale blue, darkening at tip, base with yellowish and brown spots at side and on top of segment 1.
  • Secondary genitalia diagnostic


  • Similar to male, brownish
  • More extensive basal wing patches and yellowish marks on segments 9 and 10,
  • Thorax sides (including young males) are maroon with two broad diagonal white stripes with black edge above (but not below) and bicoloured thoracic side stripes conspicuous.
Compared with other species:
  • This species is distinguished by its light brown to reddish thorax, and dark, arrow-like shoulder stripe, as well as two light side stripes bordered by black. It also has net like, brownish wings, especially the leading edges and the tips, and a shiny black vertex.
  • These, and the orange and black body, make this species distinctive.
  • The basal brownish wing flares are also characteristic.
  • The only non-blue species in SA.
Distribution and habitat:

Elusive Skimmer Orthetrum TRubens Distribution MapExtremely rare and threatened. WCP endemic, known only from Table Mountain, Hottentots-Holland, Langeberg and Tulbagh.
Habitat under severe threat but new locations are being discovered, Found at headwater streams in open landscapes. Especially
calmer sections (like pools), usually boggy (upland marshes) and often with emergent vegetation and a soft (like muddy) bottom.
Inferred to occur from 0 to 1700 m above sea level but mainly above 1200m. May occur lower but damming and march conversion
destroyed the habitat of this species. Further research to find the required habitat at lower elevations is required

  • Usually eluding detection, being a fast flier over fynbos. Mostly seen at high altitude.
Further reading:

Websites of interest:
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  Critically Endangered
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 668070
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa

African Dragonflies &Damselflies Online




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