Red-veined Dropwing (Trithemis arteriosa)

The photo above (by Jaco Botes) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Trithemis arteriosaRED-VEINED DROPWING


Small size

Length up to 38mm; Wingspan reaches 60mm.

Males are readily identified in the field but may be confused with other small red or purplish dragonflies. Most similar to Trithemis pluvialis but that species is orange-red in colouration as opposed to bright red with a purple wash on the thorax.

Females are similar in appearance to several other small dragonfly females. However, they are easily identified by the distinctive black patterning on the abdomen.

Click here for more details on identification.

Trithemis arteriosa – Male
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Trithemis arteriosa – Female
Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits a wide range of natural and man-made water bodies, including rivers, streams, lakes, pans, dams, concrete reservoirs, swimming pools and animal drinking troughs. They prefer, but are not limited to, vegetated habitats and can be found at both still and running water. Trithemis arteriosa also makes use of temporary water bodies.

Habitat – Ngonweni, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alex Briggs


Males are conspicuous at most water bodies, as they sit prominently on exposed perches over or near the water. A very active and restless species. Hunts from a perch and frequently returns to the same site after each foray to catch prey or to chase off rivas.

On the wing year round in warmer areas. Most numerous from October to January.

Status and Conservation

Very common, probably the most frequently encountered dragonfly in the region. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Trithemis arteriosa is a very adaptable species that readily makes use of degraded and man-made habitats.


Very widespread and found virtually throughout Africa, including some of the driest regions. Also occurs around the Mediterranean Sea and in parts of the Middle East.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Red-veined 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.