Cherry-eye Sprite (Pseudagrion sublacteum)

View the above photo record (by Carel van der Merwe) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Cherry-eye Sprite in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Coenagrionidae

Pseudagrion sublacteumCHERRY-EYE SPRITE


Small size

Length up to 41mm; Wingspan attains 48mm.

Males are readily identified by the bright red front half of their eyes, combined with the purplish upper thorax and postocular spots. In older males the colouration on the thorax, postocular spots and terminal segments may become obscured by greyish pruinosity. In the hand, the shape of the males claspers are diagnostic.

Females are mainly dull brownish with darker markings and resemble those of many other Pseudagrion species. Best identified by their association with the males.

Males are most similar to Pseudagrion acaciae (Acacia Sprite). The two species often occur alongside one another and have similar habitat requirements. The Cherry-eye Sprite is told apart by having cherry-red eyes, rather than the orange-red eyes of the Acacia Sprite. In addition P. sublacteum has a purplish upper thorax and postocular spots. P. acaciae has greenish postocular spots and an orange upper thorax.

Click here for more details on identification.

Pseudagrion sublacteum – Male
Wela River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Pseudagrion sublacteum – Old male
Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits flowing rivers and streams in savanna regions. Chooses sites with a healthy growth of grass and reeds along the banks.

Habitat – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Rowan Poortier


Perches close to the water on overhanging vegetation or on rocks, tree roots, sandbars or floating vegetation.

Recorded throughout the year at some sites, but most active from November to April. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

Common in the NE of South Africa. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Ranges across Africa, including parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

In South Africa Pseudagrion sublacteum is found mainly in the North-East where it is most numerous. It is more sparsely distributed in the Eastern Cape and along the Orange River.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Cherry-eye 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.