Last Updated on Friday, 22 September, 2023 11:39:33 PM

INDEX  >  Dragonflies of Borneo

Endemic Dragonflies of Borneo Island

The following are some colour image illustrations of common dragonflies in Borneo:

WINGS of dragonflies and damselflies


Identification Guide to
♂♀Gynacantha basiguttata

a common species of Borneo Island
Identification Guide to ♂♀Orthetrum chrysis
Identification Guide to
♂♀Orthetrum chrysis

common in marshes and clear streams of Borneo
Identification Guide to Camacinia gigantea
Identification Guide to
Camacinia gigantea

the largest of the Libellulidae
Identification Guide to Brachydiplax chalybea.
Identification Guide to
Brachydiplax chalybea

Widespread in Borneo Island
Identification Guide to Oligoaeschna foliacea
Identification Guide to
♂♀Oligoaeschna foliacea

a rare species from swampy forests of Lupar River in Sarawak, Malaysia
Identification Guide to Aethriamanta aethra
Identification Guide to
♀Aethriamanta aethra

a rare species from wetlands of Borneo Island
General morphology of a male dragonfly
Ictinogomphus decoratus

Male ♂65mm 2016-02-28 BUKIT GEMOK
G eneral morphology of a male dragonfly

Gynacantha basiguttata (Selys, 1882)


Identification Guide to
 Orthetrum pruinosum

Identification Guide to  Orthetrum pruinosum
Identification Guide to
♂ Orthetrum pruinosum

slow flowing streams of Borneo forests
The Largest and Smallest species of Dragonflies in Borneo
The Largest and Smallest species of Dragonflies in Borneo
Anax panybeus
Nannophya pygmaea
Tholymis tillarga 雲斑蜻
Tholymis tillarga

widespread in Borneo and active at dawn and dusk
Neurothemis terminata Female 35mm
Neurothemis terminata

Female ♀35mm
Type 1 Clear Wings
2016-02-29 BUKIT GEMOK
Neurothemis ramburii
Neurothemis ramburii

common in disturbed habitats


Most male dragonfly abdomen is often narrower at segment 3, whereas the female abdomen is more robust.

Orthetrum sabina



Males and females can be distinguished as follows:
Males have a bump containing the accessory genitalia under the second abdominal segment; females lack this.

Diplacodes trivialis

Diplacodes trivialis are seen everywhere , usually on the ground and behave in a friendly manner.
Tetrathemis irregularis
Family: Libellulidae
Tetrathemis irregularis
 inhabits rainforest streams
Tetrathemis irregularis have relatively very large compound eyes among dragonflies.

Family: Libellulidae
Lathrecista asiatica

Only 1 species worldwide in this Genus Lathrecista.


Family Aeshnidae
Indaeschna sp HSBC unidentified
a new record for Borneo. Temporary code named HSBC because it was found on the outside wall of a HSBC building.


Family Aeshnidae
Indaeschna grubaueri
The only Borneo species in this genus
Field Guide to common Neurothemis in Sabah
Identification Guide
to common Neurothemis in Sabah

Identification Guide
to common Red Dragonflies in Sabah

All red dragonflies found in Sabah belong to the same Family Libellulidae

Dragonflies are common in Malaysia and can be found all around the globe in every continent except in Antarctica.
Dragonfly are  very fast flyers, can be very colourful, harmless, timid and love water. We see them dipping their tail into water, skimming on the surface, resting on twigs and darting here and there and they are very difficult to capture. T hey are harmless to humans but to other insects, they are fearsome flying predator with the most advance aviation system for aerial combat. If size doesn't matter, a dragonfly can down the latest US jet fighter Raptor in seconds.

Speed : Can reach 60km per hour.
Range : Detected to cover a total distance of 137km per day.
Agility : Can instantly change direction while at high speed. Humans can't take that much G force.

Vision : Compound eyes of about 26,000 lenses with individual sensors capable of 360 deg vision. Can focus up to 20 feet. Focusing speed more than twice of humans.
Dragonflies rely almost on their eyes to find a mate.

Audio : Dragonflies are deaf. Therefore you do not need to whisper when you are near them.

Camouflage : Colours and patterns on dragonflies are NOT for camouflage. Dragonflies employ a kind of optical illusion called motion camouflage to trick their prey.
They can move in a certain pattern where the prey will see them as stationary, at a different location or very far but in fact they are actually already closing down fast on the prey.

There are 2 general types of ODONATA :
1. The Zygoptera which is more commonly called Damselflies. When at rest their wings are folded back like most other flying insects.

2. The Anisoptera which is commonly known as the True Dragonflies. They are larger and when resting, their wings are opened to the sides.

All ODONATA have 2 pair of wings. And when in flight the two different pair move inverse way meaning from the front, we'll see they'll form an 'X'. That's where the Star Wars probably came up with the X wing fighter.

Where can we find them?
By middle of the day when temperatures are getting hot, males became more active in their searches for females.

Dragonflies spend most of their life in larvae form in a pond, lake or stream. Different species may prefer different type of habitat. Some prefer shady spots, some sunny, some still water, some flowing, some prefer clear water, some prefer muddy. They live only for a few weeks or months as an adult dragonfly compared to a few months or a few years as larvae. The larvae are predators too feeding on mosquito larvae, other insects, tadpoles and even small fish. As larvae or more specifically called nymph, they instead fall prey to larger fish and bigger nymphs. As adults dragonflies fall prey to fish, reptiles and amphibians usually during mating and laying eggs when they are most vulnerable. Some may get entangled in a spider web and become prey but unlike other insects, due to their speed and agility, they are not an easy catch for birds.

Dragonflies attract much attention of naturalists for their vibrant colour. The showy striking colour of their body amazes many onlookers.
Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are insects which contains three Suborders: 1) Anisoptera (dragonflies), 2) Zygoptera (damselflies), 3) Anisozygoptera.

The two former suborders of dragonflies and damselflies are widespread whereas Anisozygoptera is represented by one single species in Japan and one in the Himalayas.
There are more than 5000 odonate species worldwide. In Malaysia more than 300 species have been found. Dragonflies are helping  us in  keeping down the numbers of mosquitoes and we tend to forget that mosquitoes form a large part of the diet of many predators including dragonflies and birds.

Photography on dragonflies is now getting popular among the nature lovers. Morning is the best time for a beginner in photography dragonflies. Most dragonflies require that their flight muscles reach a certain minimum temperature before they are able to fly efficiently. Often insects are sluggish in the morning as they wait for the temperatures to rise enough to get their flight muscles warm. In a cool morning the dragonflies are much more approachable. And the dew condensed on the dragonflies wings often makes for a nice photo.
In cool, dewy mornings, one may find dragonflies covered with dew. They usually hide in a more sheltered spot, among weeds or cattails. They won't be going anywhere until morning sun fully warm them up.

Dragonflies have favourite perches location. One can get as close as physically possible to the perching site and set up the camera. For macro close up work, a small F-stop is usually required (F16 or so). The dragonfly will leave during the setup, but will normally return within minutes  landing on the same stem tip in the same physical position.

Some dragonflies hunt into the late afternoon aided by their excellent eye-sight. They perch on twigs, grass blades, or leaves at the water’s edge, waiting to grab small insects that come within range. A dragonfly usually perches with its body in a horizontal position. They take  an upright posture as if doing a handstand. It had assumed this “obelisk posture” to cool itself by minimising the rays of the sun ray to the body.
Dragonflies are usually found near ponds, lakes, rivers, or even puddles of water that are quite permanent. When they are not flying, you can find them perching on leaves or twigs at the water’s edge.

Dragonfly are magnificent flying machines. It can fly at speeds of nearly 100kph. It can hover like a helicopter, fly vertically, stop or turn sharply in the midst of rapid flight, even fly backwards. It has the best eyesight among insects.

Favourite habitat of dragonflies and damselflies :

Seepage Forest Stream Open Stream River Marsh Lake Pond
Forest Stream
Open Stream
Lower Stream Mid Stream Upper Stream
Lower Stream
Mid Stream
Upper Stream
Shallow stream with sands and cobbles, water ran slowly and stagnant passing highly diversified habitats along river. Shrubs and grasses along the stream. Site totally exposed to the sunlight.
Provided varieties of substrates which consist of stones, rocky, cobbles and sandy. Water surface partially covered by canopies of trees and shrubs. Slow and fast flowing water.
Rich of substrates like stone and big rocky. Stream was too small with very fast flowing water, provided open site which is totally exposed to the sunlight, deep and very crystal clear water

Associations between dragonflies (Odonata) and their forest habitats in North Borneo: implications for conservation.

Albert George Orr
ENS, Griffith University, Nathan Q 4111


The Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) includes nearly 6000 species worldwide. Owing to their charismatic appeal, ease of observation, and a life history which depends on both suitable freshwater and terrestrial habitats, they are increasingly carrying the flag for invertebrate conservation, both as indicators of environmental health, and as a group of special intrinsic value deserving priority protection in their own right.
The greatest species richness of Odonata occurs in the Oriental and Neotropical regions, which boast respectively 1666 and 1636 described species. It is estimated that 25-30% of the total fauna is yet to be described in both regions. Within the Oriental region 23 of the 31 extant odonate families occur, 20 of which are found in Malaysia. At present about 360 species are recorded from Malaysia, 235 from West Malaysia and 275 from East Malaysia. Within Malaysia 80 species and 20 genera are known only from the peninsular, whereas 136 species and 10 genera are known only from North Borneo. However taken overall the Bornean fauna is much more distinct, with 46% species endemic to the island.
It is believed that the greater part of the world tropical odonate fauna is dependent on forest habitats and unpolluted streams for its survival. The island of Borneo was originally almost completely covered by closed canopy tropical rainforest. Owing to an aseasonal, hot, per humid climate and high rainfall, forests were well supplied with streams and standing water. Consequently the rich, largely endemic odonate fauna must have evolved in association with these forests, and non-forest species, common today in disturbed land, must formerly have been rare opportunists in forest gaps or localized lacustrine species. It is estimated that at least 70 % of the fauna is presently confined to forest habitats and probably depends on forest for its survival. This study relates quantitatively odonate distribution to a mosaic of complex tropical rain forest formations in Brunei Darussalam. The tiny sultanate of Brunei still enjoys about 80% forest cover, representative of all the seven major formations found on the island and a great many of the 30+ sub-formations, and results from a nation-wide survey of odonates from most habitats are considered to be broadly applicable to the entire island of Borneo and many other parts of equatorial south-east Asia.
Greatest odonate diversity, both Alpha and Beta, and greatest endemicity, is found in the primary lowland mixed dipterocarp forests, especially those growing in highly dissected landscapes such as occur at the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre, at the edges of the central uplands. High diversity and endemicity is also found in swamp forest, especially freshwater swamp, with certain endangered peat swamp formations also important. The highly vulnerable kerangas forest harbours fewer species, none uniquely, and the mangrove fauna is still more depauperate, with only a single wide-ranging specialist restricted to this habitat. Secondary dipterocarp forest is certainly less rich in odonates than primary forest, but lack of sites for parallel comparisons makes it difficult at present to state how serious this effect is. These results emphasize the importance of conserving a wide range of primary forest formations to achieve satisfactory odonate conservation, a strategy congruent with the conservation of charismatic land-based vertebrates and forest peoples.


Feats and Facts

Fossils of prehistoric dragonflies have been found with wingspans of 30 inches and body lengths up to 18 inches.

Adults of Odonata can fly backwards or forwards and even hover like a helicopter. They can do these incredible aerial tricks because their two pairs of wings move independently of each other, in contrast to most other insects.

The fastest recorded insect flight belongs to the Australian dragonfly, Austrophlbia costalis, which can reach 36 miles per hour over short distances.

Some dragonflies can have between 10,000 and 50,000 individual eyes (commatidia) in each compound eye.

The naiad shoots out its labium very fast to catch a prey, and the forward movement requires less than three one-hundredths of a second.

The largest damselfly, Megaloprepus coerulatus, has a wing spread of more than seven inches. This damselfly is found in Central and South America.

A dragonfly nymph can use jet propulsion to move forward very quickly. By pulling water into the rectal chamber of its abdomen and then shooting it out.

The Largest and Smallest species of Dragonflies in Borneo
The Largest and Smallest species of Dragonflies in Borneo :
Indaeschna grubaueri  and Nannophya pygmaea

The Largest Species is ♂ Indaeschna grubaueri

Body length = 92mm, Wingspan = 116mm

The Largest Species is  ♂ Indaeschna grubaueri
body length = 96mm, wingspan = 137mm

The Smallest Species is ♂ Nannophya pygmaea
Body length = 17.5mm, Wingspan = 29mm


The largest dragonflies of Borneo are all belong to the Family of Aeshnidae. The smallest are from Family Libellulidae. In between is the Family Gomphidae.

Dragonflies and Damselflies of Sarawak
Identification Guide to Oligoaeschna foliacea of Sarawak
Some of the interesting Dragonflies and Damselflies we found in Sarawak

Dragonflies in West Malaysia

West Malaysia hosts over 230 species of dragonflies and damselflies, which is roughly double the European total. Although few of these are endemic, many have restricted Sundaic distributions, occurring only in Malaysia, southern Thailand and Sumatra.
Natural history tours included Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara.

Interesting area of peat swamp forest, a habitat seldom visited by tourists of any kind.
A short distance from Kuala Lumpur is the old and charming British hill-station of Fraser’s Hill, small streams in and below the montage forest here are sure to yield a number of exciting species and birds are very easy to watch here.
Small streams at mid-altitude are sure to hold the robust damselfly Devadatta argyoides, the golden-winged Euphaea ochracea and the widespread but glorious Aristocypha fenestrella.

A key endemic to find here is the unmistakeable Calicnemia rectangulata, which is restricted to the mountain ranges of West Malaysia.
Taman Negera is an area of incomparable humid rainforest. This is one of the oldest tracts of rainforest in the world and supports some quite fantastic beasts, including one of the largest dragonflies in the world, the monstrous Tetracanthagyna plagiata.
Time will also be spent exploring some lowland peat swamp forest – a habitat which although depauperate in birds and mammals hosts an interesting and specialised Odonate fauna.

Here is a good place to search for the rare and local damselfly Podolestes buwaldai.

Inevitably during the trip we will spend some time around Kuala Lumpur, enjoying some of the finest food in the world (here the best of Malay, Chinese and Indian food is available) – a mouth-watering prospect for many.
In Kuala Lumpur visit the ponds of the Botanical Gardens to look for the common and widespread species.

Common dragonflies in Borneo Island
Common dragonflies in Borneo Island
(Information of Dragonflies of Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Kalimantan)

The 3 common families of dragonflies found in Borneo Island:

1 Family Aeshnidae
2 Family Gomphidae
3 Family Libellulidae

Dragonflies and Damselflies feed on insects

A small dragonfly eat mosquitoes every day. While the larger dragonflies eat small insects like moth, butterflies, flies and sometimes each other.

Ovipositor of a female dragonfly Gynacantha basiguttataFemale Vulvar lamina

Ovipositor or Vulvar lamina
of Female Dragonflies and Damselflies

The females of all damselflies and some dragonflies (Aeshnidae and Petaluridae families ) have a fully formed ovipositor, which is a complicated structure containing paired valves and cutting blades, on the underside of abdominal segments 8 and 9. The ovipositor is used to insert eggs into plant tissue, mud, or other substrate.
Some species have a stylus, which is a thin, needle like projection, at the end of each of the two valves of the ovipositor.
Vulvar lamina with a conspicuous “V” incision

Egg mass of a female dragonfly Orthetrum testaceum
Eggs of Dragonflies

Males and females can be distinguished as follows:

3- Males have a bump containing the accessory genitalia under the second abdominal segment; females lack this.


2- Male dragonflies have 3 appendages at the abdomen tip, male damselflies have 4; females of both have only 2 such appendages.

Male appendages

1- Females typically have a broader abdomen than males, and female damselflies and darners (Aeshnidae) have a prominent ovipositor under segments 8 and 9.


Type 1 Female Type 2 Female ALL Female damselflies have a ovipositor
NOT ALL female dragonflies have a ovipositor. These female have a Vulvar lamina instead ONE family (Aeshnidae) of dragonflies have a ovipositor  
Dragonfly Vulvar lamina Dragonfly Ovipositor structure Damselfly Ovipositor structure
Vulvar lamina Ovipositor structure Ovipositor structure

The females of all damselflies and some dragonflies (Aeshnidae and Petaluridae families ) have a fully formed ovipositor on the underside of abdominal segments 8 and 9.
Ovipositor is a complicated structure used to insert eggs into plant tissue, mud, or other substrate.
Ovipositor structure containing :
1- Paired valves
2- Basel cutting blades, .
3- Paired stylus, which is a thin, needle like projection, at the end of each of the two valves of the ovipositor.
4- Some species (Gynacantha basiguttata) have sharp anal claws at segment 10. That perhaps serves as anchor to stabilize the abdomen while the basal plate is cutting hole and inserting eggs into plant.
Female dragonfly that do not have Ovipositor Structure will have a Vulvar lamina with a conspicuous “V” incision



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Damselflies of Borneo