Red-veined dropwing (Trithemis arteriosa)

Red-veined dropwing male
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Red-veined dropwing fact file

Red-veined dropwing description

GenusTrithemis (1)

One of Africa’s most common and widely distributed dragonflies, the male red-veined dropwing (Trithemis arteriosa) has a slender red abdomen and is named after the bright red veins running across its wings (2).

The female and immature red-veined dropwing, have a yellowish-russet abdomen with a pale streak between the wings (2). As with other dropwing species, the wings are held downwards and forwards when at rest (3) (4).

Both the male and female red-veined dropwing have orange flecks at the base of the wings and large crimson eyes. The distinctive lower mouthparts are yellow with a central bronze stripe. Black splashes run along the sides of the abdomen, increasing in size up to the tip, which is entirely black (2). The oval larvae or ‘nymphs’ of the red-veined dropwing are hairless with a spiny abdomen covered in dark brown speckles (3).

Trithémis Écarlate.
Length: 3.2 - 3.6 cm (2)
Wingspan: 5.8 cm (3)
Hindwing length: 2.6 - 2.8 cm (2)

Red-veined dropwing biology

Red-veined dropwing nymphs are ferocious predators (7), feeding on small invertebrates (8). Dragonfly nymphs are aquatic and after completing a number of developmental stages, they emerge from the water and moult into an adult dragonfly. The newly emerged dragonfly matures and gains its unique colouring before breeding (2).

The flight period for adult red-veined dropwings is throughout the year, although they are more commonly seen during the summer months, perched prominently on vegetation at the waters edge (2). Perching is thought to help the red-veined dropwing locate and catch prey and allows the male red-veined dropwing to lookout for female mates and intruders (3) (9).

Male red-veined dropwings are very territorial, and can battle with other males of the same species for around 20 minutes. The defender often flies tightly around the intruder, known as ‘spinning’, and attempts to force the intruder to fly upwards. These conflicts often cause severe wing damage and wing condition deteriorates with age (9).


Red-veined dropwing range

Widespread and common in Africa, the red-veined dropwing is particularly abundant in southern Africa (2) (5) and can also be found across southern Europe and parts of the Middle East (1).


Red-veined dropwing habitat

The red-veined dropwing can be found in most aquatic habitats including swamps, marshes, reedy pools, streams, slow-moving rivers and, in arid regions, salt pans (2) (3) (5). Breeding is known to take place in temporary pools where aquatic larvae have been found buried up to 30 centimetres in the water bed (6).


Red-veined dropwing status

The red-veined dropwing is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Red-veined dropwing threats

The red-veined dropwing is currently an abundant and widespread species and is not considered to be under threat (1).


Red-veined dropwing conservation

As a common and widespread species, there are no conservation measures in place for the red-veined dropwing (1). However, the red-veined dropwing is sensitive to changes in water quality and can be used as an indicator species for permanent water sources (5).

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

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Find out more about how South African dragonflies can be used as indicator species:

More information on dragonfly and damselfly conservation:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (such as crabs), some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen.
Indicator species
Any species that provides a guide to the condition of its habitat.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
The 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.
In insects, a stage of growth whereby the hard outer layer of the body (the exoskeleton) is shed and the body becomes larger.
Stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults, and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2011)
  2. Samways, M.J. (2008) The Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa. Pensoft Publishers, Bulgaria.
  3. Picker, M., Griffiths, C. and Weaving, A. (2004) Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  4. Grunwell, M.J. (2010) Dragonflies and damselflies in the state of Qatar. Journal of the Qatar Natural History Group. 3: 2-15. Available at:
  5. Giere, S. and Hadrys, H. (2006) Polymorphic microsatellite loci to study population dynamics in a dragonfly, the libellulid Trithemis arteriosa. Molecular Ecology Notes, 6: 933-935.
  6. Bitzer, R.J. (2003) Odonates of the Middle East and their Potential as Biological Indicators for Restoring the Mesopotamian Marshlands of Southern Iraq. Report for the Eden Again Project to restore the Mesopotamian Marshlands, Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Iowa. Available at:
  7. Jacana Media (2004) Lowveld and Kruger Guide. Jacana Media, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  8. Tudge, C. (2000) The Variety of Life. Oxford University Press, United Kingdom.
  9. Tarboton, W. and Tarboton, M. (2009) Red-veined dropwings: how long do they live? AGRION Newsletter of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association. 13(2): 48-49.

Image credit

Red-veined dropwing male  
Red-veined dropwing male

© Tommy Pedersen

Tommy Pedersen


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