Little Scarlet (Crocothemis sanguinolenta)

The photo above (by Sharon Stanton) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Crocothemis sanguinolenta LITTLE SCARLET


Small Size

Length up to 38mm; Wingspan reaches 63mm.

Males are best identified by their stout, pointed abdomens with feint black lateral spots and pale red pterostigmas. The intensity of the red colouration is variable and ranges from washed out pink-red to shiny, vivid red.

The colouration of females is also variable, ranging from yellowish-brown to pink-brown to red.

This species is most similar to Crocothemis erythraea, but that species is larger and has a broader abdomen lacking lateral black spots. Crocothemis erythraea also has longer yellowish, as opposed to reddish pterostigmas.

Within the limited area of overlap, it may also be mistaken for Crocothemis divisa (Rock Scarlet). The Rock Scarlet differs by completely lacking any amber at the wing bases, by having a bright pink-red abdomen, very long red pterostigmas and a mostly brown thorax with a red wash above.

Click here for more details on identification.

Crocothemis sanguinolenta – Old Male
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Crocothemis sanguinolenta – Young Male
Photo by John Wilkinson
Crocothemis sanguinolenta – Female
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Mostly associated with the flowing water of streams and rivers. Prefers more open sites with abundant rocks and gravelly substrate. Also frequents rocky ponds in mountainous areas.

Habitat – Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Mostly perches on bare ground or on rocks. Very occasionally perches on stream side vegetation. Interestingly, non-breeding males that spend periods away from water become less brightly coloured in washed out red to pink.

Status and Distribution

Crocothemis sanguinolenta is a common species and is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Reliance on flowing river and stream habitat means it does not readily adapt to man-made habitats.


Found virtually throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Also occurs in northern Madagascar and parts of the Middle East.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Little Scarlet 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.