Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Orthetrum
Species: Orthetrum testaceum

A common red dragonfly of Sabah

ID Source#1 :

Found in China, Hainan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Viet Nam

Genus : Orthetrum


| Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata) of Sabah English Version  |  Traditional Chinese Version  |

In the same Genus Orthetrum | Orthetrum chrysis  | Orthetrum glaucum Orthetrum sabina   |  Orthetrum testaceum   |

Other Red Dragonfly of Sabah

Orthetrum pruinosum Orthetrum chrysis Orthetrum testaceum Rhodothemis rufa

2016-09-16 MINI HYDRO

2016-03-19 SG IMAM



The 4 easily confused Male Red Dragonflies of Borneo
Orthetrum pruinosum Orthetrum chrysis Orthetrum testaceum Rhodothemis rufa
Orthetrum pruinosum Orthetrum chrysis Orthetrum testaceum Rhodothemis rufa

O. pruinosum

O. chrysis

O. testaceum

R. rufa


The Genus Orthetrum is distinguished by :
1) Complete antenodal cross vein
2) Discoidal field in the forewing has  3 cell rows through out.

A Rhodothemis rufa is distinguished by :
1) Incomplete antenodal cross vein
2) Discoidal field in the forewing has both 2 cell rows and 3 cell rows.


Eyes meet partially along a seam (arrowed)

Eyes barely touch at a centre point (arrowed)


Body color patterns of an aging female Orthetrum testaceum is so different to a young female. These differences in degree of:

1) Body color turn grayish green , where as a young female is bright brown.
2) Wing color turn tan color, where a young male and female all have clear wings.

These unusual greenish color female are often seen in the field but could not beidentified to which species they belong to.

Until a close look at the venation only then realized they are non other then the commonly widespread Orthetrum testaceum.

This is an aging female with white powder (white pruinescence) developed at the lower part of body. Segment 8, 9 and 10 stained with mud that dried up indication she had experienced laying eggs on water not long ago.

The variability of color lead to confusion of races and forms.
Without examine this wing venation, it is difficult to conclude that these greenish dragonfly with tan (tea color) wings is actually an Orthetrum testaceum.

Common ID method is using the wing venation to clarify identification in some species.

A female Orthetrum testaceum.

While one can easily see a bright red male Orthetrum testaceum perching beside the water the whole day through, a female is difficult to find. A female comes to the water only when laying eggs and flew away immediately after that. She might return the next day with a second batch of eggs ready for fertilizing and laying.

Female and young male Orthetrum testaceum roost on tree top making them even harder to find.

Female Orthetrum testaceum is greenish brown on the thorax and brown on abdomen with obscure dark markings.

In the LIBELLULIDAE family usually the male has bright face with brilliant colors while the female has a dull simple color.

This is so with this female Orthetrum testaceum whose face is just plain greenish brown with a facial resemble to an unshaved old man with a big flat nose.

Segment 8, 9 and 10 of the same female Orthetrum testaceum.

At the rear of segment 8 is the short Subgenital Plate with two sharp teeth. Subgenital Plate serves as an egg guide in dispensing eggs into water.

Wing venation of a female Orthetrum testaceum

For dragonflies, the hind wing is broader than the forewing

An immature female Orthetrum testaceum


Orthetrum chrysis and Orthetrum testaceum look similar but they are completely 2 different species.
Orthetrum chrysis  thorax is dark tending to black, and underneath the base of the abdomen segment 2  is a strong tuft of black hairs looking like a small curved spine.

In Orthetrum testaceum the thorax is a light orange-brown with NO tuft of hairs at the base of the abdomen segment 2.

While Orthetrum testaceum is found almost anywhere even in poorer quality habitats. Orthetrum chrysis is environmentally conscious. Orthetrum chrysis do not occur in polluted or disturbed water. O. chrysis prefer pristine streams 原始的溪流 that means good quality water habitats


Orthetrum testaceum testaceum (Burmeister, 1839)

One of the largest of red dragonflies in Sabah. Common in tropical Asia.  Common in open, disturbed habitates including drains, ponds and gardens.

This matured Orthetrum testaceum males is a  stunning red beauty. It flies swiftly to and fro protecting his moonsoon drain. The female has a brown body with obscure dark markings.

Photographed at Sabah forest reserve on 8th October 2006 Morning

Male Immatured Female
  Brown with obscure dark markings

Distal Antenodal : (i.e. the one immediately before the nodus) is said to be complete, in that it extends from costa to radius

Antenodal Veins : Small cross-veins at the front of the dragonfly or damselfly wing, between the wing base and the nodus.

Orthetrum testaceum testaceum (Burmeister, 1839) has complete Distal Atenodal



This Orthetrum testaceum testaceum I photographed on 30-1-2007 also has a complete Distal Atenodal but followed by an incomplete second Antenodal Vain

Orthetrum testaceum testaceum (Burmeister, 1839) mating and oviposit

See photo detail...

Photo date : 17-12-2007
Place : Sabah

Hovering above water selecting a spot to deposit eggs - A female Orthetrum testaceum  laying eggs on a pond in Sabah forest reserve. (December 2006)

Dragonfly   males  possess 2 sets of sexual organs :

1 - primary sexual apparatus on the 9th segment at the end of his abdomen.

2 - secondary sexual organs on the 2nd abdominal segments

The male Dragonfly  first charge his secondary copulatory apparatus with sperm from his primary copulatory apparatus before mating , 

Dragonfly mating start  with  male grasping the female with his abdominal claspers. The two then assume the wheel position with the tip of the females abdomen (sexual apparatus)  engaging the males secondary copulatory apparatus. The male first uses his penis to remove any sperm left by a previous male before inseminating her himself.

Copulation can take from several minutes to several hours depending on species. As for this pair of  Orthetrum testaceum they copulate for less then 1 minutes.

Some species. the male stays in tandem with the female while she lays her eggs. Other species, such as this Orthetrum testaceum  the male stays close to the female guarding her while she oviposit and expel all other males from his territory allowing the female to lay only in his territory.



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