Queen Malachite (Ecchlorolestes nylephtha)

View the above photo record (by Desire Darling) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Queen Malachite in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Synlestidae

Ecchlorolestes nylephthaQUEEN MALACHITE

Identification

Large size

Length up to 55mm; Wingspan attains 61mm.

Within its restricted habitat and distribution it is only likely to be mistaken for an unbanded male Chlorolestes tessellatus (Forest Malachite) or non-pruinose Chlorolestes umbratus (White Malachite).

Similar in size to Chlorolestes tessellatus but is more slender in appearance. The Queen Malachite can be further differentiated by having short, plain pterostigmas (not bi-coloured), and a pruinose blue collar (prothorax) and wing bases.

Readily differentiated from male Chlorolestes umbratus, as that species is noticeably smaller and lacks the pruinose blue prothorax and wing bases.

The sexes are similar. Females are not as elongate and lack the dark metallic green face of the males.

Click here fore more details on identification.

Ecchlorolestes nylephtha – Male
Storms River, Eastern Cape
Photo by Gregg Darling
Ecchlorolestes nylephtha Female
Marloth Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

The Queen Malachite has rather specific habitat needs. It inhabits closed canopy indigenous forests, where it is found along shady, fern-lined streams. Requires clear, flowing water with pools and a rich growth of stream-side plants. Often found where there are large, moss-covered rocks and boulders.

Habitat – Milwood Creek, Western Cape
Photo by Sharon Stanton
Habitat – Marloth Nature Reserve, Swellendam
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Ecchlorolestes nylephtha is a shade-loving species. Unobtrusive and easily overlooked, spends long periods at rest. Most often seen hanging vertically from a perch over the water with wings outstretched. Also known to perch on the side of large streamside boulders. Both sexes occur in the same area but females are even less conspicuous.

Most active from November to May (see Phenology below).

Status and Conservation

Common but highly localised. Listed as Near Threatened in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Loss of its natural forest habitat is a potential threat to the species, but populations are currently thought to be stable.

Distribution

Endemic to South Africa, where it is known only from the Eastern and Western Cape provinces. Ranges from near Swellendam in the west to the easternmost point in its range near Kareedouw.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Queen Malachite 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

The next two graphs shows how the occurrence of the Queen Malachite varies within the year, i.e. the phenology. There are 79 records in the database for this species, so these results ought to be starting to be fairly reliable. The first plot shows the number of records in each pentade, five-day periods, which start on 1 July and end on 30 June of the following year. Two pentades have the maximum number of records, six; they are in January and April. There are records in every month of the year, except August and September. The blue line is generated by a smoother, an algorithm which aims to separate the “signal” from the “noise”, and shows the pattern of seasonality for this species. The second plot shows only the blue line, and it is scaled to lie between zero and one, for easy comparison between species.

The phenology plot shows a long flight period for the Queen Malachite, with a peak in observations From January to March. There seems to be a steady increase in abundance from October to November, and relatively rapid decline in April.

The quality of the phenology can be improved by actively searching for this species throughout the year. The August-September gap needs to be confirmed by getting lots more records in other months of the year. Although 78 records seem to provide a plausible phenology plot, additional records of Queen Malachites are needed in OdonataMAP to make it really reliable. If you have access to a locality where it occurs, the ideal would be to make a record in OdonataMAP for each five-day period in which they are seen and photographed.

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.