Scarlet Pygmy – little gems of the swampy grassland

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Nannophya pygmaea
Common Name: Scarlet Pygmy

Nannophya pygmaea is easily the smallest true dragonfly in the region and one of the smallest in the world. These little gems frequent grassy edges of lakes and reservoirs, opened drains and marshes, and forest edges.

In Singapore, it is locally abundant often perched with abdomen raised in the hot sun.

Places where I often encountered include most of the reservoirs edges of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

This is an immature male. It is yellowish brown in color.

This male is still at it’s maturing stage where the striking red coloration has already started to form at it’s abdomen.
Another maturing male.
A fully matured male. The eyes are also red on top and dark brown below. It has red dark patches at the base of it’s wings.
A young female. The abdomen has a lighter tone of brownish and white then fully adult female.
Matured female is darker in color. The dorsum of the thorax is black and a striking transverse bands of darker brown and white at it’s abdomen.
Another matured female.

A truly little gems of the forest as it often elude an observer’s eyes as they are so tiny and so inconspicuous amongst the open grasslands.


Macrodiplax cora (Brauer, 1867)

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Macrodiplax cora
Common Name: Coastal Glider

Macrodiplax cora is a common dragonfly species which is found at reclaimed land, reservoirs and coastal areas. In Singapore, I have seen this species at MacRitchie Reservoir, Upper Seletar Reservoir, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and Upper Peirce Reservoir.

Adult male Macrodiplax cora is a medium-sized dragonfly with a body length of 43mm. It has large head and dark brown thorax.  Both sexes has a distinctive thick dark broken line along the dorsum of the abdomen.

Female is light orange-yellow on thorax and abdomen.Immature male resemble female in colors. The wings are clear except for a yellowish patch at the base of the hind wing.

This species perches on the tip of twigs or branches along edges of the reservoirs.


Macrodiplax cora-2
A young male rest on the tip of plant branches along the reservoir.

Macrodiplax cora-4
Dark thick broken lines along the abdomen is it’s distinguishing feature.

Macrodiplax cora-7
Another but slightly older male.


Macrodiplax cora-5
Young female with orange-yellow coloration on the thorax and abdomen.

Macrodiplax cora-3
Similarly to male, she has dark broken lines along the abdomen.

Macrodiplax cora-6
This female embarks a vertical obelisk posture under the hot midday sun.

Macrodiplax cora may be a migratory species and has been known to be salt-tolerant.


Orchithemis pulcherrima Brauer, 1878 (Red Form, Male & Female)

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Orchithemis pulcherrima
Common Name: Variable Sentinel

Orchithemis pulcherrima is a common dragonfly which inhabits swampy forests within the nature reserves. It can be found usually under heavily shaded forest reserves in MacRitchie Reservoir, Upper Pierce Reservoir, Upper Seletar Reservoir, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and many other forested reserves.

This is a narrow winged species. The abdomen is broad and tapers towards the tip. Male has two colour forms. Red form with and without white markings and dark form with pale markings near it’s base. The genitalia on the ventral side of segment 2 of the male is very prominent.

This is the red form without white markings which is very common.

This male individual has a yellowish thorax which is quite distinct.

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This male has a dark reddish abdomen with white markings at base of abdomen. This form is not normally seen.

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Female with red abdomen is rare. I have seen this female form only three times in Singapore.



Camacinia gigantea (Brauer, 1867)

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Camacinia gigantea
Common Name: Sultan

Camacinia gigantea is a large and rare dragonfly which inhabits large ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Although rare, it can be quite common locally especially near edges of forest reserves. I have seen this species at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Chestnut Avenue Forests, Mandai Forests.

This is possibly the largest dragonfly in the Libellulidae family.

The male has a dark red thorax, abdomen, and the red patches also cover about 2/3 of the wings. It is not uncommon to see several males fly rapidly over stagnant ponds or forest pools, often engage in territorial fight. They prefer to hang vertically at their favourite perch and ward off intruders.

Matured male -1

Matured male -2

Maturing male – some yellow patches can still be seen on the wings.

Young male with brilliant red.

Immature males are yellowish in colour.

Dorsal view – note the pattern on the male’s wings.

Female is slightly stouter and larger than the male. The wings and body are pale brownish in colour. Aged female can appear to be dark red as in males. Female is rarer and often not sighted. They appear only when mating and ovipositing.

At a glance, this female appear to look like a male. However, the abdomen is thicker and the female anal appendages is clearly seen.

Another female. Note the slightly yellowish on the red patches wings.

Aged female with brownish thorax, and reddish wings.

I used to see this species at a drainage concrete structure at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. However, the sighting of this species is less common now after the vegetation was cleared from the water-logged structure.


Ceriagrion chaoi Schmidt, 1964

Family: Coenagrionidae
Scientific Name: Ceriagrion chaoi
Common Name: Fiery Coraltail

Ceriagrion chaoi is a rare damselfly species that has been found only at very few places in Singapore, such as Bishan Park, and MacRitchie Reservoir.

In June 2013, I saw this species at an unrecorded place at the Western side of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. There are at least a pair of this damselfly ovipositing on the submerged water plants at the reservoir. It seems that this species only appear late in the morning and males are more likely to be seen, whilst females are less common.

The male has a striking red abdomen and an olive green thorax. The eyes and mouth are red. Females are less striking with dull olive green thorax.


An immatured male
A teneral male

Female ovipositing on submerged vegetation with the male on guard
Female ovipositing on submerged vegetation with the male on guard


Libellago aurantiaca Selys, 1859

Family: Chlorocyphidae (Jewels)
Scientific Name: Libellago aurantiaca
Common Name: Fiery Gem

This brilliantly coloured damselfly is unmistakeable. In the book “Dragonflies of Singapore”, it mentioned this is an uncommon species but I would think it is a relatively rare species, compared to Libellago lineata  and Libellago hyalina. It can only be found at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The habitat for this species is clear, flowing forest streams with sandy bottom. Male is often seen perching on twig, water plants or floating leaves flowing down the streams. So far, I have not seen female of this species yet.

Male perching on floating plant on fast flowing stream in the swamp forest

Resting on water plant
Resting on water plant

perching on twig above forest stream
perching on twig above forest stream


Lyriothemis cleis, Brauer, 1868 (Female)

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Lyriothemis cleis
Common Name: Bombardier

Female Lyriothemis cleis is variegated brown in colour and very rare. So far, I have only spotted once at MacRitchie Reservoir.

Female spotted at MacRitchie Reservoir in year 2011

It has clear wings

Same Female
The abdomen is segmented with clear defined dark lines.


Lyriothemis cleis, Brauer, 1868 (Male)

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Lyriothemis cleis
Common Name: Bombardier

Lyriothemis cleis was first discovered by A.R. Wallace from Singapore  in 1854. It is a rare dragonfly and found at Bukit Timah Nature Reserves and MacRitchie Reservoir.

According to some texts, this species lives in pristine dipterocarp forests and the larvae lives in water-filled cavities in plants.

The abdomen is dull red in colour with well-defined segments. The eyes are metallic dark brown and clypeus is milky white.

I have spotted this dragonfly a couple of times in year 2011 at the exact same spot along a forest trail at MacRitchie Reservoir.

Male – dorsal view

Male – lateral view

Male (notice metallic blue frons, milky white clypeus.and protruding secondary genitalia).


Nannophya pygmaea Rambur, 1842

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Nannophya pygmaea
Common Name: Scarlet Pygmy

The smallest true dragonfly in Singapore and one of the smallest in the World, the scarlet pygmy has a total body length of merely 16-17mm. It is quite a localised species and commonly found at open grassy and swampy areas as well as inlets and water edges of reservoirs. So far, I have encountered this species at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Reserve, and at the vicinity of Chestnut Ave forests.

The male has a totally red thorax and abdomen. The wing base is tinted with amber. Juvenile male is yellowish brown in colour. Female is darker and the abdomen has a transverse bands of dark brown and white.

Both male and female are very active during noon time. It is a usual sight of seeing this species adopt an obelisk posture during mid-day whilst the sun is right above. I guess this is to minimise exposing their body to intense heat during the day.

This is indeed a cute and lovely dragonfly species – one of my favourites.


Matured male

Immatured male
Immature male

Immature male
Immature male