Great Sprite (Pseudagrion gamblesi)

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

Find the Great Sprite in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Coenagrionidae

Pseudagrion gamblesiGREAT SPRITE


Medium sized

Length up to 50mm; Wingspan reaches 65mm.

Pseudagrion gamblesi is the largest Sprite in the region and this alone makes both sexes easily identifiable.

The male Pseudagrion gamblesi is one of three ‘Yellow-faced’ sprite species in the region. The other two being Pseudagrion citricola and Pseudagrion caffrum. The Great Sprite is significantly larger than these two species and has a distinctly striped thorax, large postocular spots, brighter blue terminal segments and noticeably large claspers.

In terms of colouration, females resemble many others of the genus, but can be safely identified based on their large size.

Click here for more details on identification.

Pseudagrion gamblesi – Male
Umzimkhulu River, near Creighton, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alan Manson


Frequents larger, flowing rivers and streams in the mid-altitude, eastern parts of South Africa. Favours rocky river pools flanked by tall grasses, forbs and reeds.

Habitat – Komati River, Mpumalanga
Photo by Sharon Stanton


A fairly sluggish species that spends long periods perched on reed and grass stems over the water.

Most active from late September to April, but flies all year at some sites. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

The Great Sprite is highly localised and generally scarce, but may be fairly common in places. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Pseudagrion gamblesi is fairly sensitive to habitat degradation and occurs mostly along undisturbed stretches of river.


Pseudagrion gamblesi occurs in Southern, South-Central and East Africa. It has been recorded from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. In South Africa it is found mainly in the East, namely the Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Great Sprite 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.