Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)

Slightly smaller than A. imperator (Blue Emperor/Emperor Dragonfly). The male sports a distinctive blue ‘saddle’ at S2 and S3 which tends to stand out prominently against an otherwise dull brown and black abdomen. Beware, though, the male A. ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor), also with a blue saddle though somewhat shorter (generally S2 only). The female looks similar but we’ve yet to see one.

This now seems to be an annual migrant to Britain and has, supposedly, bred in Cornwall. I’m not sure I’d go with resident, personally, though it does feature in our resident lists.

I recently discovered a complication with this species. A. parthenope has a very wide range from northern Africa and Europe, east through India to parts of China. In Europe, A. parthenope has a brown thorax. However, further east into southern China and Japan, there is a subspecies Anax parthenope julius with an apple green thorax like that of A. imperator. Since A. p. julius looks so different, I’ve dedicated a separate page to it. Besides, the Atlas of European Dragonflies and Damselflies (Boudot/Kalkman) does actually refer to this variant as a distinct species, Anax julius.

Id Notes

  • Brownish thorax and S1 [but see above]
  • Narrow yellow band at base of S2
  • Largely blue S2&3 (♂)
  • Yellow costa
in flight

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