Black Sprite (Pseudagrion commoniae)

View the above photo record (by Desire Darling) in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Coenagrionidae

Pseudagrion commoniaeBLACK SPRITE


Small size

Length up to 39mm; Wingspan attains 51mm.

Males are most similar to the dark form Swarthy Sprite (Pseudagrion hamoni). Pseudagrion commoniae can be told by its eyes which are black above and in front, with dark red below. In Pseudagrion hamoni the eyes are red in front.

Females are easily confused with those of several other sprite species. They are best identified by their association with the males.

Click here for more details on identification.

Pseudagrion commoniae – Male
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits the grass and reed lined verges of streams and rivers. Found mainly in hot savanna areas. Prefers slow moving stretches and pools, often where the water is fairly turbid. Occasionally found at dams and ponds.

Habitat – Slow moving stretches of savanna rivers.
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tiuppett


Perches close to the water among reeds and grass. Usually quite reluctant to fly.

Most active from January to May but recorded year round in warmer areas. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

The Black Sprite is a common species in South Africa. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Pseudagrion commoniae is found in Southern and East Africa, ranging from Ethiopia in the North to South Africa. In South Africa it is restricted to the savanna regions of the NE.

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