Southern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis leucosticta)

The photo above (by Gareth Yearsley) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Brachythemis leucosticta, commonly known as the Southern Banded Groundling is a dragonfly belonging to the family Libellulidae.

Identification

Small size

Length up to 33mm; Wingspan attains 57mm.

Males are distinctive and easily recognised.

Females lack the dark wing panels and can be mistaken for a Dropwing (Trithemis spp.) or the Banded Duskdarter (Parazyxomma flavicans). These species however, lack the bi-coloured pterostigmas and can be further differentiated by wing venation, habitat and behaviour.

Brachythemis leucosticta – Male
Mkhuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Brachythemis leucosticta – Female
Imfolozi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

Open areas adjacent to almost any freshwater habitat, in dry savanna areas. This includes rivers, dams, pans and marshes. Favours sites with bare ground such as sand, gravel and mud. Non-breeding individuals may be found far from water. Breeding males sit on vegetation overhanging the water and commonly on waterlilies.

Habitat – Short grass and bare ground alongside a savanna pan.
Nsumo Pan, Mkhuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Sits in exposed positions, mostly on or close to the ground. Tame and confiding. Frequently follows humans and animals to catch small insects that get flushed from the grass. Often gregarious and females are found alongside the males.

Status and Conservation

Brachythemis leucosticta is abundant and widespread. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Southern Banded Groundling is an adaptable species that is often common in disturbed habitats.

Distribution

Occurs widely through East and Central Africa and down to the northern parts of South Africa. In South Africa it is mostly absent from the Western Cape, Karoo and colder parts of the Highveld.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Southern Banded Groundling in the OdonataMAP database as at February 2020.

The next map below is an imputed map, produced by an interpolation algorithm, which attempts to generate a full distribution map from the partial information in the map above. This map will be improved by the submission of records to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum.

Ultimately, we will produce a series of maps for all the odonata species in the region. The current algorithm is a new algorithm. The objective is mainly to produce “smoothed” maps that could go into a field guide for odonata. This basic version of the algorithm (as mapped above) does not make use of “explanatory variables” (e.g. altitude, terrain roughness, presence of freshwater — we will be producing maps that take these variables into account soon). Currently, it only makes use of the OdonataMAP records for the species being mapped, as well as all the other records of all other species. The basic maps are “optimistic” and will generally show ranges to be larger than what they probably are.

These maps use the data in the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum, and also the database assembled by the previous JRS funded project, which was led by Professor Michael Samways and Dr KD Dijkstra.

Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Sally Hofmeyr, Ryan Tippett & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Sally Hofmeyr, Ryan Tippett & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. Sally Hofmeyr has many years' experience in the academic world, writing her own material and editing the work of others. Her academic background is in the natural sciences: her PhD and first postdoc in ornithology and environmental change (Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town). Ryan Tippett is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the VMU since 2014 and has currently submitted over 11000 records. He is also on the expert identification panel for the Odonata Map project. Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics.