Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata)

The photo above (by Neels Jackson) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Trithemis annulata VIOLET DROPWING


Small size

Length attains 38mm; Wingspan reaches 64mm.

Males are unmistakable, being brilliant violet-red with red veins in the wings. Could perhaps be confused with male Red-veined Dropwings (Trithemis arteriosa). Red-veined Dropwings often show a violet hue on the thorax, but are distinctly red in overall colouration. The two can be further differentiated by the shape, colouration and patterning of the abdomen.

Females are yellow and brown. They are distinguishable from other dropwings by the black markings on the last two abdominal segments.

Click here for more details on identification.

Trithemis annulata – Male
Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Occupies a range of freshwater habitats such as lakes, marshes, ponds, dams and rivers. Prefers still or slow moving waters. Mostly found in the warmer savanna regions.

Habitat – Mkuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Males are very conspicuous as they perch at prominent, exposed sites over the water. They recieved the common name of ‘dropwings’ because of their habit of immediately lowering their wings after landing on a perch. Females occupy the same areas as the males, but can also be found some distance from the water.

Status and Conservation

The Violet Dropwing is a common and widespread species. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A hardy and adaptable species. Readily makes use of man-made and somewhat degraded habitats.


Trithemis annulata is found virtually throughout Africa and also occurs in the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and southern Europe. Widespread in South Africa. Most common in the North and East, but scattered records exist over most of the country.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Violet 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.