Genus Rhyothemis Hagen, 1867

Type species: Libellula phyllis Sulzer, 1776


More than twenty species inhabit sunny marshes from Africa to Australia and the Pacific. The five African species are small to medium-sized (hindwing 21-32 mm), have bronzy black bodies and strongly dark-patterned wings with blue and purple reflections. They display their wings while perching pennant-like (at the tip of a conspicuous perch with legs thrust forward and wings raised) or in fluttering flight (R. mariposa is named for the Spanish word for butterfly), often in groups at some height, gliding to and fro. Although their flight seems weak, they can be remarkably fast and evasive, and at least R. semihyalina migrates at night. R. fenestrina was long treated as a subspecies of R. notata, but the two overlap widely, the latter preferring more forested habitats. R. splendens is only known from the type series from Kabongo in Katanga and a recent sighting further north in DR Congo. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Very distinctive genus, easily identified by combination of (1) bronzy black bodies including black labrum; (2) arculus in all wings usually closer to Ax1 than Ax2; (3) 6½-9½ Ax in Fw; (4) subtriangle of 4-6cells, only rarely just 3; (5) Fw discoidal field of 3-5 rows at base; (6) Hw base extremely broadened, cells drawn out, many of them much longer than wide; (7) wing markings extensive, at least (almost) covering entire anal loop. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]

Rhyothemis fenestrina (Rambur, 1842). 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.


  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B.,, and Clausnitzer, V. (in prep.). An annotated checklist of the dragonflies (Odonata) of Eastern Africa: with critical lists for Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda, new records and taxonomic notes. Zoologische Mededelingen. [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]
  • 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. [2024-07-20].