Orange-spotted emerald (Oxygastra curtisii)

Dorsal view of a male orange-spotted emerald
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Orange-spotted emerald fact file

Orange-spotted emerald description

GenusOxygastra (1)

As a typical emerald (Corduliidae spp.), this medium-sized dragonfly possesses vivid emerald green eyes and a metallic green body, with a dark, bronzed tinge to the long abdomen (2) (3) (6) (7). The presence of conspicuous deep yellow spots on the upper surface of the abdomen, which merge almost into a longitudinal stripe, is a characteristic feature of this species and earns it its common name (7). Unlike males, the wings of females are suffused with yellow along their leading edge, a feature that helps distinguish between the sexes (2) (6).

Cordulie à Corps Fin.
Length: 47 - 54 mm (2)
Male length of abdomen: 33 - 39 mm (3)
Female length of abdomen: 34 - 35 mm (3)
Male hindwing: 24 - 36 mm (3)
Female hindwing: 33 - 34 mm (3)

Orange-spotted emerald biology

Mature orange-spotted emerald males establish territories at favourable breeding sites along a stretch of water, 10 to 20 metres in length, which they patrol continuously, flying back and forth low above the water and banks. Females venturing towards the river are quickly coupled with a male, and mating continues in the heights of the surrounding trees. Females then return to the river to lay their eggs in calm, shaded areas, unaccompanied by the male (9). Males change their territory rather frequently. This reproductive period in which adults are ‘on the wing’ lasts until early August (2) (3) (10).

The eggs hatch two to ten weeks after deposition and the larval period extend over two or three years. The larvae are mostly confined to leaf litter and detritus, accumulated between tree-roots along river banks, where they hunt. The larvae metamorphose into the adult form and emerge as dragonflies mainly in May or June, dependent on the climate. After emergence, the adults undergo a pre-reproductive phase away from the river known as the maturation period, which probably lasts around ten days (7), when they normally develop their full adult colour (11). After this period, they will return to the river to establish their territory.

Adults may feed at any time, but hunt particularly in the evening, when they attack swarms of midges above the river. The night is generally spent in the foliage of surrounding trees (7).


Orange-spotted emerald range

In Europe, the orange-spotted emerald is mainly found in Spain, Portugal and France, but also occurs in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, and has become regionally extinct in the UK and the Netherlands (1). Three records also originate from Morocco, North Africa (2) (8).


Orange-spotted emerald habitat

Found in and around slow-moving, tree-lined rivers with muddy or sandy bottoms (7) (9).


Orange-spotted emerald status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1), listed on Appendix II of the EU Habitats Directive (4) and listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (5).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Orange-spotted emerald threats

Although the orange-spotted emerald is not currently considered threatened, extensive water pollution, irrigation, large-scale stream alterations, global warming and associated summer droughts and stream drying may pose significant future threats, and an overall decrease in population sizes is therefore anticipated. Fortunately, the highest population densities that exist in south-west France and north-western Iberia are less likely to suffer than elsewhere, due to the mountainous nature of the area and therefore lower levels of agricultural pressure, river pollution and alteration, and drought (1).


Orange-spotted emerald conservation

While there are no conservation measures currently targeting this species, there is a need for control of water pollution, conservation of ‘natural’ stream and river structures, and preservation of tree borders (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


Authenticated (18/12/06) by Jean-Pierre Boudot, CNRS, Université Henri Poincaré Nancy I, France.



Litter formed from fragments of dead material.
The final moult in which a dragonfly emerges from its pupae (final moult) as the adult form.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. Dijkstra, K.D.B. and Lewington, R. (2006) Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe. British Wildlife Publishing, Gillingham.
  3. Grand, D. and Boudot, J.P. (2006) Les Libellules de France, Belgique et Luxembourg. Éditions Biotope, Collection Parthénope, Mèze.
  4. EU Habitats Directive (September, 2007)
  5. Bern Convention (September, 2007)
  6. Dragonflies and Damselflies in Languedoc (September, 2007)
  7. Systeme d’Informations sur la Biodiversite en Wallonie (September, 2007)
  8. Jacquemin, G. and Boudot, J.P. (1999) Les Libellules (Odonates) du Maroc. Société Française d'Odonatologie, France.
  9. Silsby, J. (2001) Dragonflies of the World. Natural History Museum, Plymouth.
  10. British Insects: the Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) (September, 2007)
  11. O’Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and Their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Dorsal view of a male orange-spotted emerald  
Dorsal view of a male orange-spotted emerald

© Jean-Pierre Boudot

Jean-Pierre Boudot
Université Henri Poincaré Nancy I
Faculté des Sciences
Boulevard des Aiguillettes
BP 239
Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy Cedex


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