Purple darter (Diplacodes lefebvrii)

Also known as: black percher
French: Diplacodes de Lefebvre
GenusDiplacodes (1)
SizeProthorax length: 2.5 - 4 mm (2)
Hindwing length: 20 - 28 mm (2)

The purple darter is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Giving off an iridescent dark-purplish sheen as it flies across its freshwater habitat, it is not hard to see how the purple darter (Diplacodes lefebvrii) got its name. This small dragonfly is also called the black percher, due to the male being almost entirely black, and to the species’ habit of perching often. In contrast to the male, the female is more of a vibrant yellowish-green, with the only black present as small stripes across the thorax (3).

The wings of the purple darter are very clear, although they turn slightly amber towards the base of the hindwing. This amber patch is bigger and darker in females. Both the male and female purple darter have a greyish-brown cell, known as the pterostigma, near the tip of the wing (3).

The purple darter has a widespread distribution, primarily occurring in Africa, outside of forested areas. This species can also be found on several islands in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as across the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula, and through Asia as far as the Indian subcontinent (1).

The purple darter can be found in a diverse range of well-vegetated freshwater habitats, such as swamps and marshes (1). It can also inhabit small stretches of river, provided there is an abundance of tall grasses either side (4).

As in other dragonflies, the larva of the purple darter is aquatic and is probably a ferocious hunter (4), opportunistically taking a variety of prey from aquatic invertebrates to small fish. Adults dragonflies tend to be generalised feeders, congregating where flying insect prey are abundant (5).

Adult purple darters can be seen year-round, although are less common in winter (3). Like all dragonflies, the purple darter copulates when flying in tandem. The male will grab a receptive female at the back of the abdomen, pulling the pair into a wheel shape and allowing copulation to occur (4). Female darters typically lay eggs nearby immediately after copulation by repeatedly dipping the abdomen into the water, or by laying the eggs onto the water surface or floating vegetation (5).

The main threat to the purple darter is the drainage of swamp land and marshes for agricultural use or for housing in highly populated areas (1).

There are currently no specific conservation efforts directed at the purple darter due to its stable population and widespread range (1).

To find out more about the conservation of dragonflies and damselflies see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2010)
  2. Dijkstra, K-D.B. (2006) African Diplacodes: the status of the small species and the genus Philonomon (Odonata: Libellulidae). International Journal of Odonatology, 9(2): 119-132.
  3. Samways, M.J. (2008) Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa. Pensoft Publishers, Bulgaria.
  4. Brooks, S. (2003) Dragonflies. Life Series, The Natural History Museum, London.
  5. O' Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Iinsects and their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.