Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rhodothemis rufa


Species Name: Rhodothemis rufa

Family: Libellulidae

For the first time I was able to rear a dragonfly larva up to emergence. However unfortunately although I guessed the day of emergence, I was too late to catch the start of the emergence process.On the morning of the larva's change to adulthood I woke up at 3:15 a.m. but found that it had already fully emerged! I was only able to take photos of it hanging fully extended from the exuvia.

This, after 2 months of guessing and wondering about its species, turned out to be Rhodothemis rufa a common species in Asia - with a range from Bangladesh through India, Indochina, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. My thanks to Dr Rory Dow and Dr Sadayuki Ugai for the sp. identification.

The male however is rather difficult to distinguish from other common and very similar red libellulids. However the female (shown here) is recognized by its brownish colour and the mid-dorsal light yellow streak which run from the top of the antefrons through the thorax down to segment 5 of the abdomen. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of a male.

The larva when I first collected it was a rather long-legged spiderlike creature!

Mature larva (underside)

Mature larva with mosquito larvae which I provided it. It also readily ate small tadpoles.

The newly emerged female with its characteristic mid-dorsal line.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Indaeschna grubaueri

Species Name: Indaeschna grubaueri
Family: Aeshnidae
Male resting beside pond
Members of the family Aeshnidae are the gaints of the Odonata and this is one of the largest of the gaints. This is the second time that I've seen and photographed this species at the very same pond at the edge of a forest reserve near Lahad Datu town. The first time was in 2006 when I saw a male resting on vegetation at the side of the pond, and today I was fortunate enough to see this huge female ovipositing at this pond. Interestingly she was laying her eggs in the moist soil just above the water. This species is also known to lay its eggs in water-filled tree holes and on buttress cavities of large trees.
Female on the wing
Females of I. grubaueri have hindwings that measure up to 68mm while males are thinner and smaller with 59-62mm long hindwings. Both sexes are similarly coloured with bright lime-green markings on the thorax and wide bands on the abdomen.

Female ovipositing on wet soil above water line

This species is said to be widespread in lowland forest in Sundaland and the Philippines.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Libellago hyalina

Species Name: Libellago hyalina
Family: Chlorocyphidae
This is the other Libellago sp. which I was able to photograph with my Nokia mobile phone in the Binusan Forest Reserve in Nunukan, Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia during my short visit there last week. Dr Rory Dow said my photos "almost certainly" showed Libellago hyalina.
L. hyalina has a wider range than the sp. in my previous post, being found from parts of China, Thailand, down to Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and other parts of Indonesia.

My photos show the mature male which has a dark blue/purple abdomen (apparent only when seen in bright sunlight). Immature males have red markings on the abdomen, while the females like those of other spp. in this genus are rather darb in colour.

Libellago phaethon

Species Name: Libellago phaethon
Family: Chlorocyphidae
Last week I took the short ferry ride from Tawau, Sabah across the border to Nunukan in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. There, friends took me to a picnic area in a forest reserve near town but unfortunately I had not brought along my DSLR camera, because I found some very interesting damselfly species which were new to me! Two of them were Libellago spp. of which, after much patience, I was able to take some fairly sharp photos with my Nokia N85 mobile phone camera!

L. phaethon is said to be known only from northeast Borneo (just south of Tawau, Nunukan Island would be in this area) being more well known from small streams in Danum in Sabah.
The male is uniquely coloured blue (on thorax and basal half of abdomen) and red markings on the rest of the abdomen. The female (which I did not see) like those of the other species in the genus is darb in colour and difficult to identify unless when associated with the males.

I observed typical Libellago male agression behaviour among the males - two males would hover above a piece of territory facing each other until one of them retreats. I also saw this species confront males of L. hyalina  which was also quite common here in this manner.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Tholymis tillarga

Species name: Tholymis tillarga
Family: Libellulidae
A male resting in the shade during the day photographed 
on Pulau Sapi an island off Kota Kinabalu  

This is another common crepuscular libellulid like the two Zyxomma ssp. (obtusum & petiolatum) and are found in similar habitats, i.e. drains, weedy ponds and other open bodies of water. 
Two males in flight at dusk

It is active at dusk, flying to and fro along drains and across ponds, the males are quite conspicuous for the white wing patches. In flight they are rather frustrating to photograph! 
An immature male showing very faint white wing patch

A female

The body of this medium-sized insect is orange-brown and the hindwing has an amber tinted patch followed by a patch of bluish white in the males while this white patch is absent in the female. Hence its common name - Coral-tailed Cloudwing.

Distribution: widespread in tropical Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Drepanosticta versicolor

Species Name: Drepanosticta versicolor
Family: Platystictidae

Members of this family of small damselflies are dwellers of primary dipterocarp forest and found on small streamlets and boggy areas around springs. Drepanosticta spp are brownish bronze in colour, usually with abdomens marked sparingly with light blue or pale spots and they fly close to the ground in the shaded  forest understorey making them very difficult to see. I only saw this specimen for a few moments before it vanished back into the shadows!

Bornean platystictids are still not well studied and many more new species are likely to be found. However the insect in my photos is quite likely to be D. versicolor by virtue of the presence of a long sharp spine on the rear margin of its prothorax. (I thank Dr Rory Dow for identifying these, and other photos for me).

I took these photos on a recent visit to the Danum Valley Field Centre whose many jungle trails and streams proved to be ideal hunting grounds for me! Alas two days was simply too short!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Coeliccia nigrohamata


Species Name: Coeliccia nigrohamata

Family: Platynemididae

I found several males of these small damselflies with conspicious blue markings on the upperside of the thorax resting on low vegetation along a small streamlet on the forest edge in the Danum Valley Field Centre. Unlike most damselflies they were extremely unafraid and I could easily pick them up with my hand. (Unfortunately I did not see any females).

On checking Dr A G Orr's Dragonflies of Borneo later I found my photos matched that of Coeliccia nigrohamata. I was however informed that members in this group of Coeliccia were currently under reclassification and this could very well be classified as a different species! 
Coeliccia spp. are found in forested habitats, inhabiting fresh water marshes, streams and springs. They are not usually found in open country or big rivers. This particular species belongs to a group of blue-marked species in the genus, another group consists of mainly species with yellow markings. A species found in Peninsular Malaysia, C. octogesima has a famous blue telephone-shaped logo on the synthorax (see Dr Choong's blog).

Coeliccia nigrohamata  has been recorded from Brunei and Sabah.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Neurobasis longipes

Species Name: Neurobasis longipes
Family: Calopterygidae

Male on rock in midstream (taken without flash)
This  surely has to be the most beautiful damselfly in Borneo! Witnessing it in nature is one of the most breathtaking experiences for me. My photos hardly convey the true beauty of this creature that has simply to be seen in life.  I had previously only glimpsed it momentarily on a few ocassions in forested rivers and had never had a chance to photograph it until now. 

Close-up of male (taken with flash)
I saw this spectacular male in the shallow rocky Sungai Palum Tambun which is a tributary of the mighty Segama River in the Danum Valley Field Centre. It was tirelessly flitting from rock to rock in the late afternoon, occassionally I also saw his less colourful mate, but she was too shy to pause and pose for me! It had me chasing it from rock to rock trying to get a good picture and mercifully, just as I was about to become totally exhausted and before the sun disappeared, it stayed put for a while and let me approach it to get my photo!

The body of both sexes are bright metallic green in colour, the top of the male's hindwings are brilliantly iridescent  green and its forewings are clear with a yellow-brown tint while the both the female's wings are clear with a lighter yellow-brown tint.

Members of the family Calopterygidae (from the Greek words meaning beautiful wings) are slender with long thin legs and mainly coloured metallic green. N. longipes is found in Borneo as well as in Peninsular Malaysia where another similar and slightly bigger species N. chinensis is also found. 

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Orchithemis pulcherrima

Species Name: Orchithemis pulcherrima
Family: Libellulidae
I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this small dragonfly near a pond in the oil palm plantation recently as I have never seen it in Sabah before. I first saw and photographed this species in the Lambir Hills National Park in Miri, Sarawak in 2006.
This species is rather interesting because of its many colour forms or morphs. At least four distinct colour forms are known - orange, red, blue and a dark almost black form with a white band on its abdomen. 
This male, like the one I saw in Miri is of the orange variety.

The geographical range of this libellulid is recorded as Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, Borneo, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Raphismia bispina

Species Name: Raphismia bispina
Family: Libellulidae


Last week on a short visit to the Borneo Paradise Eco-resort near Lahad Datu, Sabah I saw and photographed a small female libellulid on the mangrove edge which I had never seen before. When Rory Dow saw the photo which I emailed to him he said it looked like the female of Raphismia bispina a mangrove specialist. On checking the books and on the Net I found out that the male is a small blue fellow that resembles Brachydiplax chalybea, and I suddenly recalled seeing what I thought was a very skittish B. chalybea at the same place.

Male guarding a pond

Well, today I went to look for this male and found quite a few of them in the mangrove forest at the resort. Almost every small tidal pond (of salt water) has at least one male guarding it. And I also saw a female ovispositing in one of the ponds jealously guarded by the resident male.

Male perched on mangrove seedling

At first glance the males look like B. chalybea except that they are a bit smaller and the shade of blue is slightly different. But unlike the latter they are very skittish flying away at the slightest movement and landing further away. It took me quite some time and very patient stalking to get my first satisfactory shot.

I also tried to take some photos of their underside (upskirt photos!!) to try to show the signatory twin spines on their thorax behind the hind legs and the process projecting beneath on segment 2 of the abdomen. See if you can spot these on the photos.

Male, the process on abdominal segment 2 is clearly 
visible, but the pair of spines behind legs are less so

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Zyxomma petiolatum

Species Name: Zyxomma petiolatum
Family: Libellulidae


Two species of Zyxomma are quite commonly encountered but are rarely noticed because they are both crepuscular, i.e. they are active only when the sun has set and before sunrise. Z. petiolatum are less often seen or noticed because of its sombre brownish colour, unlike the male Z. obtusum which is covered in a "ghostly" white pruinescence that extents to its wings. 

The two Zyxomma species are very dissimilar, with obtusum being more "libellulid-shaped", while the petiolatum male has a long and very slender abdomen; the female's is somewhat thicker.

Both sexes are active from late afternoon to well into the evening and probably at dawn too as with obtusum, and are attracted to lights; the photos here are of specimens that flew into the house at night.


Said to be widespread in tropical Asia and Australasia.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Argiocnemis alcyone

Species Name: Argiocnemis alcyone
Family: Coenagrionidae
Photo 1: A young male (this species goes through 
a series of colour change as it matures, 
young specimens have largely red abdomens)

I found this delightful little damselfly to be quite common in shaded drains and in weeds among the palms in the plantation I where work. 

Dr Rory Dow who is in the process of re-describing this species (and transfering it to this genus from Mortonagrion) identified my photos and said it was an endemic species in Borneo and my photographs are probably the only ones of this species in existance! He added "It appears to be quite widely distributed along the east coast of Borneo, but there is an apparently isolated population in Brunei."
Photo 2: A female

Photo 3: A mature male

Ischnura senegalensis

Species Name: Ischnura senegalensis
Family: Coenagrionidae
Photo 1: A pair in the wheel
The Common Bluetail, also known as the Ubiquitous Bluetail is a very widespread damselfly found from Africa, the Middle East  and throughout Southern and Eastern Asia.
Photo 2: An orange form female
It is very common in open drains, ponds and swamps but not found in shaded areas and forest. The male is pale green on the sides of its thorax with black markings and a blue-tipped abdomen. Females, however appear in three colour forms, in one form it's similar to the male, then there's an olive green form and a golden orange form (which gives the species another common name - Senegal Golden Dartlet). All these female forms appear to be just as common as the other and can all be encountered at the same location at the same time.
Photo 3: An olive-green female devouring a Agriocnemis femina

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Ceriagrion cerinorubellum


Species Name: Ceriagrion cerinorubellum

Family: Coenagrionidae

Compared to the species in my previous post Ceriagrion cerinorubellum is widespread in tropical Asia but is no less beautiful, with its bluish green head and orange base and tip of the abdomen it is quite distinctive and cannot be mistaken for other species. The female is similarly coloured but darker. In India it is commonly known as the Orange-tailed Marsh Dart.

I have frequently found it in drains, ponds, and open swamps and sometimes in gardens near town. 

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Ceriagrion bellona


Species Name: Ceriagrion bellona

Family: Coenagrionidae

Members of the genus Ceriagrion are indeed some of the most beautiful damselflies, they come in shades of red, green and yellow. Back in 2005 when I just started to photograph and learn about Odonata I found some mating and ovipositing pairs of C. bellona along a small stream in hill country on the forest edge in Tambunan. The thorax of the males are orange and greenish with bright red abdomens while the females are mainly olive green. Males look quite similar to C. cerinorubellum which is the commoner of the two Ceriagrion species found in Borneo.

C. bellona is restricted to north Borneo and is recorded at 1000m on Mount Kinabalu as well as in the lowlands at Danum Valley.