Twister, Tholymis tillarga, Vlegtertjie   Africa

100 626 Tholymis tillarga Twister Male Tshipise LP RSA MCH 2016

101 509 Tholymis tillarga Twister Female Tshipise LP RSA March 2013

100 547 Tholymis tillarga Twister Female KgomoKgomo NWP RSA Feb 2017r 23

Short description:

Twister, Tholymis tillarga is fairly large sized, light orange red with dark brown and light blueish white patches near center of wing.

Also called Old World Twister, Coral-tailed Cloud Wing, Crepuscular Darter, Evening Skimmer, Foggy-winged Twister

Family Libellulidae        (Leach, 815)

More images: 

100 626 Tholymis tillarga Twister Male Tshipise LP RSA MCH 2016r 4Image

101 510 Tholymis tillarga Twister Young male Tshipise LP RSA January 2013Male








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Key identification features:


  • Easily recognizable species due to the brown and light blueish splashes in both front and hind wings
  • Brown patches ends at the nodus and the light blueish white patches start at the nodus
  • Light blue patches are very visible in flight


  • Pale brown with light brown patches in hindwing
Distribution and habitat:
  • Very ubiquitous and opportunistic, and breeds in pools, ponds, marshes on sides of large lakes, and swamps in bush, woodland and forest, as well as in river backwaters and man-made sewage lagoons, pools, ponds and water tanks.
  • From 0 to 1800 m above sea level, but mostly below 1500
  • Adults are active at dusk, night and dawn, sometimes on sultry afternoons, as well as during soft rainfall with low luminosity, and so they are expected to be easily overlooked during the day
  • Hawks low and rapidly over water surface, often turning abruptly
  • Name is derived from the female behaviour when laying eggs, spinning through 180° between dips
  • Sometimes overseen due to its crepuscular behaviour (active primarily during the periods of dawn and dusk)
Compared with other species:
  • Wing patches makes it easily identifiable. Unmistakable colouring very diagnostic.
  • There are several red coloured species that needs close inspection to identify correctly.
    • Aethriamanta rezia, Pygmy Basker: 118 500 1Aethriamanta rezia Enseleni 2 1  Very small. Eyes brown with red cap on top, mottled grey below. Thorax with black shoulder stripe. Legs black. Wings all with small dark brown flares at the base, hind wings with additional small patch just behind flares, flares are surrounded by amber halo. 6 Ax veins. Pterostigmas reddish brown 2mm. Abdomen wide, bright red with regular black ladder running along entire top. Segment 1 blackish. Superior appendages red.
    • Urothemis assignata, Red Basker:  100 670 Urothemis assignata Red Basker Male Kozibay KZN RSA MCH 2018r 2 Stout, bright red. Eyes deep red above, mottled dark and light grey below. Legs light red. Hind wings have large dark red angular basal patches with amber hallow. Fore wing has small traces of amber at the base. Wing veins red. Pterostigma yellow brown 4mm. Last Ax vein complete. Abdomen segments 5 -9 have black above with median ladder-like stripe of uneven width, widest on s 8 - 9. Appendages of moderate length, red.
    • Macrodiplax cora. Coastal Pennant: 118 503 Macrodiplax cora Coastal Penant Male Kosi Bay KZN Apr 2016r 1  Wings clear, except for small amber patch at base of hind wings. Abdomen bright red with along top strongly contrasting black hour glass shaped stripe of varying width, broken at each segment joint.
    • Tramea basilaris, Keyhole Glider, 100 1666 Tramea basilaris Keyhole Glider Male Loskopdam MP RSA Nov 2017r 1 Hind wing patches distinctive keyhole shaped. Thorax dull orange above dark brownish grey with dark brown areas along the side. Abdomen segment 8 triangular shaped mark, S 9 -10 black above. Superior appendages long, dark brown with light base.
    • Tramea limbata, Ferrugginous Glider,  100 1142 Trame limbata Ferruginous Glider Hluhluwe KZN RSA Mch 2017r 2 Hind wing patches distinctive elongated, narrow shaped dark panels close to basel edge of the wing that may appear black in flight.  long brown claspers
    • Tholymis tillarga, Twister. 100 626 Tholymis tillarga Twister Male Tshipise LP RSA MCH 2016r 4  Hind wings with dark brown patch just inside nodus in front half, with white patch outside of it and diffuse amber area inside it. Forewings with diffuse amber area at bases of wings. Abdomen tapered, light red. Appendages long, red, black at tips.

Distribution Map May 2020








South Africa:

  • Sparsely populated in the in the NWP, LP, GP, Mp and KZN Some records fron the central dry areas 


  • Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Côte d'Ivoire; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo-Brazzaville; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinee-Bissau; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; Republic of Guinea; Republic of South Africa; São Tomé & Príncipe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Sudan; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Further reading:

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Least Concerned
Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 668600
African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa