White-masked Wisp (Agriocnemis falcifera)

View the above photo record (by John Wilkinson) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the White-masked Wisp in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Coenagrionidae

Agriocnemis falciferaWHITE-MASKED WISP

Identification

Very small size

Length up to 25mm; Wingspan attains 30mm.

There are two subspecies, Agriocnemis falcifera falcifera and Agriocnemis falcifera transvaalica

When immature they are initially all orange-red, with later stages orange-red on the terminal segments of the abdomen only; when mature, only the terminal segments are orange-red. In old males the green colouration on the thorax and head turns pruinose white.

The forehead has a whitish band or ‘mask’ that runs from eye to eye and this is a diagnostic feature. The shape of the small green post-ocular spots are also diagnostic. They are tapered along the inner edge and connected across the back of the head in subspecies falcifera. In subspecies transvaalica the postocular spots are not connected.

Females are highly variable and range from all red or orange to green and black.

Most similar to Agriocnemis gratiosa (Gracious Wisp). The White-masked Wisp can be told apart by its tapered and joined postocular spots and the white moustache stripe in the males. These two species are the largest Southern African wisps which helps to separate them from the other smaller species.

Click here for more details on identification.

Agriocnemis falcifera – Young Male
Kromme River, Eastern Cape
Photo by Gregg Darling

Habitat

This tiny damselfly is found along the fringes of ponds, lakes, pools and dams. Favours marshy sites with thick stands of grasses, sedge and reeds. Can on occasion be found along suitable, slow moving sections of rivers

Habitat – Middelburg, Mpumalanga
Photo by Andries De Vries

Behaviour

Inconspicuous due to its tiny size and its habit of sitting low down among the grass stems, where it remains well hidden. Often gregarious.

On the wing from September to April. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

Locally common and endemic to South Africa. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Distribution

It is endemic to south Africa. The subspecies Agriocnemis falcifera falcifera occurs in a broad strip along the east coast from northern KwaZulu-Natal to the Western Cape. Agriocnemis falcifera transvaalica occurs inland in parts of Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for White-masked Wisp 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.

Phenology

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.