Pallid Spreadwing (Lestes pallidus)

View the above photo record (by Alan Manson) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Pallid Spreadwing in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Lestidae



Small size

Length up to 44mm; Wingspan attains 48mm.

A species with highly variable colouration.

The khaki brown form of Lestes pallidus is very similar to Lestes ictericus (Tawny Spreadwing), but that species has noticeably rounded wing tips, plain brown pterostigmas and differently shaped claspers.

Click here for more details on identification.

Lestes pallidus – Male
Mpempe Pan, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits pools, pans and marshy areas, usually with an abundance of grass. Favours ephemeral habitats, particularly rain-filled water bodies. Mostly found in seasonally dry savanna regions.

Habitat – Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Rapidly colonises seasonal waterbodies after rain, even sites that have been dry for a number of years. Spends long periods perched on grass stems with its wings outstretched. Often gregarious.

Most active from september to May, but flies all year at some sites. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

Localised, but common to abundant where it occurs. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


It is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is widespread but patchily distributed.

Widespread in the northern half of South Africa, becoming less common in the south where it is far more localised.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Pallid Spreadwing 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.