Dragonflies and Damselflies of Fiji

One of the first dragonflies I came across in Fiji remains one of my favourites, it revels in the Latin name Agrionoptera insignis, but is known to its English speaking friends as the "red swampdragon".   Around the world it's very common to come across green dragonflies, and quite common to come across red dragonflies, but it's not so common to find one which is red and green - in fact this is the first one that I can recall, and I only saw one of this species while I was in Fiji.

Agrionoptera insignis

This particular individual was quite a long way up a ridge on a logging track behind Silktail Lodge at Devo on the Tunuloa Peninsula, which is also known as the Natewa or Cakaudrove Peninsula.   This species isn't endemic to Fiji, instead several different sub-species are found throughout Asia.

Agrionoptera insignis

Look closely and you'll notice that this dragonfly is only standing on four of its legs, and it has its other two legs tucked up behind its eyes.   This anatomical or behavioural characteristic is also seen amongst quite a number of butterflies.

Agrionoptera insignis closeup

Here's one of those common green dragonflies I told you about, a Green Skimmer or Orthetrum serapia.   It was on the same logging track as the previous individual, and you'll see that this one too has a pair of legs tucked behind its eyes!

Orthetrum serapia (green skimmer)

This type of dragonfly seemed to be more common than the red and green one - at least I encountered it in more places.   Here's what I think is the same species, but this time beside the Narange creek up in the Korayanitu National Park, near Nadi on the main Fijian island of Viti Levu.

Orthetrum serapia (green skimmer)

Unlike the one I found on Vanua Levu, this one didn't have its front legs behind its eyes, nor did it seem to be in any sort of a hurry to go anywhere.   I was even able to move it around a bit and get it to crawl onto a stick which I placed under it.

Orthetrum serapia (green skimmer)

From this angle you can see why this individual might have been so lethargic - its right rear wing seems to be seriously distorted.   Butterflies and dragonflies can still get around very well with tattered and ragged wings, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to fly with such a bent wing.   In this shot you can see the enlarged end of its tail which identifies the family of dragonflies which I believe this one belongs to - the clubtails.

Orthetrum serapia (green skimmer) - click here to open a new window with this photo in computer wallpaper format

I've shown you one of those all-green dragonflies I told you about, now here's an all-red one.   Like all of the remaining specimens on this page, this one was also at Koroyanitu, however it has a very wide range, and hence a wide variety of names.   As well as its scientific name Diplacodes bipunctata, it's also called the Common Percher, the Red Percher or the Wandering Percher.

There seemed to be quite a few Red Perchers here.   Looking at its wings, this one seems to have picked up quite a bit of wear and tear, which depending on how you look at it either makes it unlucky for being in such condition, or lucky for having lived long enough to accumulate this much damage, which doesn't affect its ability to fly and hunt.   The deep red colour signifies that this is an adult male, females are dull yellow and juvenile males start off with the same colors as females, and then turn orange before taking on the red body and face of the adult.   Tatty or not, this dragonfly photo ended up as a model for a Fijian postage stamp, along with two other dragonflies on this page.

As well as dragonflies, there were also quite a few damselflies at Koroyanitu, including this one which could be Nesobasis heteroneura or, which is more likely at this altitude, Nesobasis comosa.   I've seen this combination of green, blue and gold on American damselflies, but not with a blue mouth!  The genus Nesobasis is endemic to Fiji and, unlike most groups found on isolated islands, it has a lot of members, with over 30 species spread around the country.

Another member of this genus, Nesobasis erythrops was the damselfly that I most wanted to photograph, and the one which was most difficult to capture.   Like the red and green dragonfly, I haven't previously seen a red and blue combination on either a dragonfly or a damselfly.   But one of these guys flew quickly past me soon after I got to the end of the road at Koroyanitu, and settled on the rock bed of the creek.   Before I could get a photo it flew off at great speed, and after an hour or more of trying I still hadn't succeeded in getting a shot.   Then I had a stroke of luck, with this one landing on the stem of an upended leaf which was stuck in some shallow water.   I had to slowly edge forward on my knees in a few centimeters of water until I could get close enough for this photo.

Perhaps this is the reason why I was able to finally get close - the male damselfly you see in the vertical position in this photo is the same one in the photo above.   After it had finished mating I was able to get the previous shot.

Like dragonflies, male damselflies have hooks at the end of their abdomen which they use to attach themselves to the female, behind her eyes.   The actual sexual organs of the male are just behind its thorax, so after getting hooked up, the male and female move into a "wheel" position, with the tip of the females tail being brought under the female's body and forward to where it can couple with the male's sexual organ.