Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii)

The photo above (by Richard Johnstone) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Diplacodes lefebvrii BLACK PERCHER


Small size

Length up to 32mm; Wingspan reaches 54mm.

Only likely to be confused with the rare Diplacodes pumila (Dwarf Percher). Mature males of the two are very similar, being an overall black colour with blackish eyes and a dark metallic blue frons. The Black Percher is the larger species with little to no size overlap between them. Additionally mature male Black Perchers have white cerci and small dark amber patches at the base of the hindwings. These are largely absent in the Dwarf Percher.

Immature males of D. lefebvrii and D. pumila are easily told apart. The upper thorax of D. lefebvrii is yellowish with fine black etching. The upper thorax of D. pumila is rusty red-brown and diagnostic. The abdomen pattern of the two also differs. D. pumila has a broad black line that extends all the way down the top of the abdomen. In D. lefebvrii this line is noticeably thinner. Traces of the immature abdomen pattern may persist into maturity (see the photo above).

Black Percher females are identifiable by their bold yellow and black abdomen pattern and grey pterostigmas.

Click here for more details on identification.

Diplacodes lefebvrii – Male
Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits a variety of habitats including floodplains and marshes with well vegetated pools. Also occurs at grass and sedge lined pans, lakes and dams. They can on occasion be found at the marshy fringes of rivers.

Habitat – Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Males sit conspicuously at the tips of reeds and sedges over the water. The flight is fast and darting and they quickly return to a perch. Females can be found in the same areas as the males but they are more common further from the water among trees and bushes. Their behaviour is similar to that of other Diplacodes species.

Status and Conservation

common and widespread species. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Adaptable and fairly resistant to habitat degradation. It occurs commonly at well vegetated man-made habitats.


Widespread throughout much of Africa including parts of North Africa, from Egypt across to Morocco. Diplacodes lefebvrii also occurs in parts of Southern Europe and the Middle East.

Occurs over most of South Africa but is rare in the arid Karoo and Kalahari regions. Most common in NE KwaZulu-Natal.

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