Red Groundling (Brachythemis lacustris)

View the above photo record (by Rob Dickinson) in OdonataMAP here.

Find this species in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Libellulidae

Brachythemis lacustris RED GROUNDLING


Very small size

Length up to 27mm; Wingspan reaches 49mm.

Males are most similar to Trithemis kirbyi. Both species are bright red with amber wing panels. Brachythemis lacustris differs in having a squat build, with shorter, broader abdomens and an un-tapered waist. In addition Brachythemis lacustris has bi-coloured pterostigmas and deep red-brown eyes with dark lines.

Females differ from Trithemis kirbyi by having a squat build, bi-coloured pterostigmas, different abdomen patterns and eyes with dark lines.

Click here for more details on identification.

Brachythemis lacustris – Male
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Brachythemis lacustris – Female
Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photp by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits rivers and streams with an abundance of bank side reeds, sedges, trees, grass and other vegetation. Often frequents small, meandering channels where the water flow is weaker.

Habitat – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Brachythemis lacustris is a gregarious species. Many individuals of both sexes and varying ages, may be found on the same overhanging reed. Rather inconspicuous, despite the males bright colouration, as they tend to sit low down along the inside of river channels. Fairly confiding and reluctant to fly. Hunts tiny flying insect in short, darting flights before quickly returning to a perch.

Most active from late September to May (see Phenology below)

Status and Conservation

Fairly common but highly localised. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is fairly sensitive to habitat disturbance and is found primarily in undisturbed habitats.


Widely distributed over most of sub-Saharan Africa. In Southern Africa it is absent from the arid Kalahari, Namib and Karoo regions, as well as the more temperate Eastern and Western Cape provinces.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Red 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, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science projects coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. 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 OdonataMAP project. Rene Navarro is the genius behind the Virtual Museum. 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.