Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)

The photo above (by Ronelle White) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Crocothemis erythraea BROAD SCARLET


Small to medium sized

Length up to 44mm; Wingspan attains 71mm.

These dragonflies are easily regognised due to their flattened and very broad abdomens. The adult male is bright red with small amber patches at the bases of the hindwings. The veins on the leading edges of the wings are red.

Females and immatures are yellow-brown and have a conspicuous pale stripe along the top of the thorax.

Most similar to Crocothemis sanguinolenta, the Little Scarlet. The Broad Scarlet is readily differentiated by its larger size, broader abdomen, and longer, yellow pterostigmas. The two also occupy somewhat different habitats with Crocothemis sanguinolenta preferring habitats with running water and rocks.

Click here for more details on identification.

Crocothemis erythraea – Male
Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Occupies a wide range of habitats, but prefers still water habitats rather than flowing waters. Most common at the grass and sedge fringes of lakes, ponds, pans and marshes. Less frequent at rivers and streams, where it prefers the slower moving stretches and quiet back waters. Often found at man-made habitats like dams, reservoirs, ornamental ponds and even swimming pools.

Habitat – Still or slow moving river section.
Mzinene River, Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Status and Conservation

Abundant and widespread. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A very adaptable species and usually one of the most numerous species at any given site.


Crocothemis erythraea is very widespread and occurs virtually throughout Africa and also occurs in the Middle East, Southern Europe and much of Western Asia.

Found throughout South Africa, including the arid regions of the Karoo and Kalahari.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Broad Scarlet 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.