Eastern Blacktail (Nesciothemis farinosa)

The photo above (by Celeste Eastwood) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Nesciothemis farinosa EASTERN BLACKTAIL


Medium sized

Length up to 45mm; Wingspan attains 74mm.

Males are distinctive and easily recognisable with their white-blue bodies and black-tipped abdomens. Females are less distinctive, but the yellowish stripe that runs from behind the head down between the wings is diagnostic.

Males most resemble Palpopleura deceptor, but that species has a darker thorax and is much smaller. In addition Palpopleura deceptor has dark streaking in the fore-wings with bi-coloured pterostigmas.

Click here for more details on identification.

Nesciothemis farinosa – Mature Male
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tiuppett
Nesciothemis farinosa – Young Male
Mkuze Town, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Nesciothemis farinosa – Female
Enseleni Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Occupies a wide range of fresh water habitats, including both still and running waters. Makes use of rivers, streams, pans, dams and marshes. Usually frequents sites that are fringed by grass, sedge or reeds.

Habitat – Orange River, Near Upington, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Conspicuous, as it sits in the open on emergent plant stems. Hunts from a perch and the flight is relatively slow and flapping. Both sexes are found in the same areas.

Status and Conservation

Nesciothemis farinosa is common and is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Fairly resilient towards habitat degradation and commonly makes use of man-made habitats.


The Eastern Blacktail is widespread throughout most of Southern, Central, and East Africa. The distribution also extends along the Nile Valley into Egypt and parts of the Middle East. It is widespread in South Africa where it is only absent from much of the Karoo, although it does occur along the Orange River.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Eastern Blacktail 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.