Genus Lestes Leach, 1815
true spreadwings


  • scientific: Africalestes Kennedy, 1920; Paralestes Schmidt, 1951; Xerolestes Fraser, 1951; Icterolestes Pinhey, 1980

Type species: Agrion barbarum Fabricius, 1798


Cosmopolitan, with over 80 species worldwide and fourteen in the Afrotropics: it is possible that once phylogenetic studies are done that African species will move to now unused genera like Africalestes, Paralestes and/or Xerolestes. All species typically perch with abdomen hanging and wings half-open. They are fairly small to fairly large (hindwing 17-29 mm), rather dull and inconspicuous damselflies, although often with distinctly blue eyes. Most species breed in standing waters, often seasonal, small and/or densely vegetated, but may be found far from water. Mostly in open areas, L. ochraceus, L. pinheyi, L. tridens and L. uncifer favour more marshy habitats, L. plagiatus likes streams, L. ictericus ephemeral pans, and L. dissimulans and L. virgatus are more often in or near forest (the latter often at higher elevations), while L. pallidus may also be found in very dry regions. Many species are variable in coloration, from a plain pale colour with some scattered dark markings, to completely dark. Dark markings often have a bronze sheen, but only two species are truly marked metallic green. Moreover many species develop thin whitish pruinosity on (parts of) thorax and abdomen. The relative size of the pterostigmas can be useful, but the measurements given below are approximate. Identifications must be made with all this variation in mind. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


The only genus currently recognised in this family in Africa. Please refer to the genus introduction and family page for more information.

Lestes pallidus Rambur, 1842. Male (pale) © Paul Schrijvershof

Lestes tridens McLachlan, 1895. Male © Jens Kipping

Map citation: Clausnitzer, V., K.-D.B. Dijkstra, R. Koch, J.-P. Boudot, W.R.T. Darwall, J. Kipping, B. Samraoui, M.J. Samways, J.P. Simaika & F. Suhling, 2012. Focus on African Freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134.


  • Pinhey, E. (1980). A revision of African Lestidae (Odonata). Occasional Papers of the National Museums & Monuments of Rhodesia (Natural Sciences) (B) 6, 1-479. [PDF file]
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B, and Clausnitzer, V. (2014). The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa: handbook for all Odonata from Sudan to Zimbabwe. Studies in Afrotropical Zoology, 298, 1-264.
  • Ris, F. (1921). The Odonata or Dragonflies of South Africa. Annals South African Museum, XVIII, 245-452. [PDF file]
  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1961). Dragonflies (Odonata) of Central Africa. Occasional Papers Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, 14, 1-97. [PDF file]
  • Barnard, K.H. (1937). Notes on dragon-flies (Odonata) of the S. W. Cape with descriptions of the nymphs and of new species. Annals South African Museum, 32, 169-260. [PDF file]
  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1967). Odonata Zygoptera. Exploration Hydrobiologique Bassin Lac Bangweolo Luapula, 14, 1-43. [PDF file]
  • Schouteden, H. (1934). Annales Musee Congo belge Zoologie 3 Section 2, 3, 1-84. [PDF file]

Citation: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. [2024-06-23].