Sooty Threadtail (Elattoneura frenulata)

View the above photo record (by Corrie du Toit) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Sooty Threadtail in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Platycnemididae

Elattoneura frenulataSOOTY THREADTAIL


Small size

Length up to 35mm; Wingspan attains 46mm

Males are easily identified by their elongate build and dark colouration. Females are very similar to those of Elattoneura glauca (Common Threadtail), but are generally darker. Best told by their association with the males.

Click here for more details on identification.

Elattoneura frenulata – Male
Seweweekspoort, Western Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett


The Sooty Threadtail inhabits mountainous areas. Frequents well vegetated, flowing streams and rivers, ideally with pools and slow moving sections. Often found among tall grass and other rank vegetation along the riverbank.

Habitat – Bainskloof, Western Cape
Photo by Sharon Stanton


Perches low down on grass stems and other stream side vegetation. Frequently sits on rocks or bare ground close to the water. The females are usually found in the same vicinity as the males. Generally sluggish and reluctant to fly. It does not fly far once disturbed and quickly resettles on a perch.

Most active from October to March (See Phenology below).

Status and Conservation

Though it has a restricted distribution, it is locally common. The Sooty Threadtail is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Moderately sensitive to habitat damage. It requires clean, clear water, but does occur in habitats with some alien vegetation. Readily makes use of suitable, small, man-made impoundments along streams and rivers.


Elattoneura frenulata is endemic to South Africa. It is widespread in the mountainous regions of the Western Cape, extending marginally into the Eastern Cape province.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Sooty Threadtail 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.