Basking malachite (Chlorolestes apricans)

GenusChlorolestes (1)
SizeLength: 43 - 45 mm (4)

Classified as Endangered (EN A3c; B2ab(i,ii,iii,iv)) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1).

This striking damselfly has a bright metallic-green body with white, powdery splashes on its head and thorax. It is one of the damselflies that sits with its wings held open (4) (5). In this position, the black and white wing patches are very conspicuous. As its name 'apricans' (from the Latin 'apricor', meaning 'to sun oneself' (6)) implies, it is often observed sitting in full sunshine, which highlights the iridescent colouring (4) (5).

Endemic to South Africa, in the 1970s this species was known from at least 10 sites but by 2001 had been lost from all but two of these; the Kubusi River at Stutterheim and Thorn River, Eastern Cape (2). It may be that fewer than 1000 adults survive today (2).

The basking malachite inhabits clear, shallow, rocky streams with overhanging long grasses, herbs and indigenous bushes (2).

Both damselflies and dragonflies mate in flight; the male grasps the female at her neck with claspers located at the end of his abdomen so that the two fly in tandem (3). The female then curls round her abdomen to take sperm from the male, which is located on a special organ on his abdomen (3). The basking malachite female deposits her eggs on plants that overhang the streams of their habitat (2). The larval stage of the life-cycle is aquatic, preying on other small invertebrates within quieter reaches of the stream (3).

The habitat of the basking malachite is situated within the prime agricultural lands of the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and the trampling of cattle on riverbanks is destroying the plants upon which females deposit their eggs (2). The shading of streams by the invasive black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is further depleting available habitat for this damselfly (2).

Acacia spp. are being removed as part of the 'Working for Water' programme and discussions with local farmers are needed to ensure that cattle are allowed only to enter the water in certain areas along the riverbank, therefore preserving the remaining habitat of this beautiful species (2).

Authenticated (11/9/02) by Professor Michael Samways. Chair, Southern African Invertebrates Specialist Group.

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)