Banded Skimmer (Orthetrum brachiale)

The photo above (by Gary Brown) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Orthetrum brachiale BANDED SKIMMER


Medium sized

Length up to 57mm; Wingspan attains 82mm.

Most like Orthetrum stemmale (Bold Skimmer). The most reliable way to differentiate between the two is by examining the morphology of the secondary genitalia. This needs to be carefully examined as the genitalia are quite similar. Additionally the cerci/claspers of Orthetrum brachiale are mostly black, while those of Orthetrum stemmale are largely white.

Click here for more details on identification.

Orthetrum brachiale – Mature male
Near Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Orthetrum brachiale – Immature male
Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Photo by R. de Cauwer


A savanna species that inhabits grass, reed and bush fringes of rivers, streams, pools, dams and marshes. Non-breeding individuals are often found in woodlands away from the water.

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


Breeding individuals found on waterside vegetation, but often found away from water in the surrounding woodlands. Perches on exposed twigs among bushes where it hawks insects in rapid flight.

Status and Conservation

Seemingly scarce in South Africa. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Widespread throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Reaches its southern limit in the NE parts of South Africa, where it has possibly been overlooked.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Banded Skimmer 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.