Russet Dropwing (Trithemis pluvialis)

View the above photo record (by Andries de Vries) in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Trithemis pluvialis RUSSET DROPWING


Small size

Length up to 37mm; Wingspan attains 62mm.

The males resemble Trithemis arteriosa, but are orange-red in general colour and have brownish-red eyes. The two species also differ in the black patterning on the abdomen.

The females can be easily confused with females of several other Trithemis species. Trithemis pluvialis females can be identified by the large amber patches in the hindwings and the diagnostic black patterning on the abdomen.

Click here for more details on identification.

Trithemis pluvialis – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


A species of flowing rivers and streams, often in rugged, hilly environments. Trithemis pluvialis prefers wooded habitats over most of its range. In the Western Cape it also inhabits rivers in fynbos.

Habitat – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Rowan Poortier


The species often perches conspicuously on overhanging trees but also on rocks, reeds or sedges. Most often found singly.

Status and Conservation

In South Africa this species is scarce and localised with a patchy distribution. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Trithemis pluvialis occurs mostly at undisturbed sites.


It occurs Southern, Central and East Africa. Ranges from Kenya and Uganda in the north down to South Africa. Additionally stretches across Zambia to central Angola.

In South Africa Trithemis pluvialis is found in two disjunct populations. It occurs in the NE in Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It is also present in the Western Cape and adjoining parts of the Eastern Cape. This population is apparently isolated from the populations further to the north.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Russet Dropwing 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.