Dwarf Percher (Diplacodes pumila)

The photo above (by Alan Manson) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Diplacodes pumila DWARF PERCHER


Very Small size

Length up to 25mm; Wingspan attains 46mm.

Confusion is only likely with Diplacodes lefebvrii (Black 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 mostly absent in the Dwarf Percher. Diplacodes pumila also has a ‘large headed’ appearance

Immature males of D. lefebvrii and D. pumila are easily told apart. The upper thorax of D. lefebvrii is yellow-brown with fine black etching. The upper thorax of D. pumila is rusty red-brown and diagnostic. Diplacodes pumila has a very broad black stripe that extends down the length of the abdomen. This stripe is noticeably thinner in D. lefebvrii.

Dwarf Percher females are similar to the young males. They are identified by the diagnostic, rusty red-brown upper thorax and the broad black stripe that extends down the top of the abdomen.

Click here for more details on identification.

Diplacodes pumila – Mature Male
Near Himeville, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alan Manson
Diplacodes pumila – Immature Male
Near Himeville, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alan Manson


Inhabits shallow marshes, seeps and floodplains. Prefers sites with tall emergent grass, sedge and reeds. Most often found at fairly high altitudes in upland grasslands, from 1000 to 2100 m a.s.l, but found close to sea level in NE KwaZulu-Natal.

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


An inconspicuous species that likes to sit low down among the emergent vegetation. Males and females occur in the same areas.

Status and Conservation

Uncommon and localised. Listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Mostly reliant on high quality natural habitats, but known to utilize suitable fringes of man-made dams.


The distribution of Diplacodes pumila is widely scattered across South-central Africa from Central Angola to Northern Zambia and marginally into neighboring DRC and Tanzania. Also occurs in parts of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The South African distribution is disjunct and it occurs in coastal NE KwaZulu-Natal as well as at various upland sites in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

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