Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)

View the above photo record (by Alan Manson) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Wandering Glider in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Libellulidae

Pantala flavescens WANDERING GLIDER

The Wandering Glider was first described from India by Johan Christian Fabricius in 1798.

This species and Pantala hymenaea, the Spot-winged Glider, are the only members of the genus Pantala from the subfamily Pantalinae.

Identification

Medium-large size

Length reaches 53mm; Wingspan up to 90mm.

Pantala flavescens is easily recognised by its distinctive, tapered shape, yellowish to orange-red colouration and long, broad-based wings.

Most resembles Tramea basilaris (Keyhole Glider) and Tramea limbata (Ferruginous Glider). They are similar in size, shape and behaviour but Pantala flavescens does not have dark patches at the base of the hind wings.

Click here for more details on identification.

Pantala flavescens – Male
Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Pantala flavescens – Female
Mpempe Pan, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

The favoured breeding habitat is at seasonal pools, pans and dams which it rapidly colonises after rain. Liable to turn up almost anywhere after a down pour. Often found in large numbers hawking over lawns, sports fields and any other open spaces.

Habitat – Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Habitat – Near Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

A highly aerial species that spends much of the day on the wing. Resting individuals hang vertically from a perch.

Usually gregarious and frequently joins mixed species hunting swarms at dusk.

Wandering Gliders make an annual multi-generational journey of some 18,000 km; to complete the migration, individual Wandering Gliders fly more than 6,000 km—one of the farthest known migrations of all insect species!

African populations migrate between India and Africa and also within the African continent.

On the wing from October to May.

Status and Conservation

Abundant. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Distribution

It is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet occurring on every continent except Antarctica although it is rare in Europe.

Present throughout South Africa, although its occurence is more erratic in the south.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Wandering Glider 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, 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.