Short note on dragonflies of Crete
Marcel Wasscher

Crete is with nearly 9000 km2 one of the four largest in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is Greek and has mountains as high as 2456 m. In the beginning of April 1999, during a one week stay in Crete, I hoped to find some dragonflies and indeed two species (Hemianax ephippiger and Sympetrum fonscolombii) were on wing. Most interesting was to gather the larvae from three Cretan (sub) species being endemic to the island. None of these species is rare on the island (Lopau & Wendler, 1995). Pictures of the larvae of these species and of a reared juvenile Boyeria cretensis are presented on this website. Map of Crete


Larval habitat

In a river near the villages of Mixorrouma and Spili the larvae all three endemic (sub) species from Crete were found on one location. This locality was before a small barrier in the river. Between floating tree roots I could collect within a quarter of an hour two larvae of Calopteryx splendens cretensis, one larva of Boyeria cretensis and one larvae of Coenagrion intermedium. A few kilometres further upstream two additional larvae of Boyeria cretensis were found, again between floating tree roots.

River habitat


Boyeria cretensis Peeters, 1991

The larvae of Boyeria cretensis look very much like its western Mediterranean sister species Boyeria irene. Both species have the light spot on the back of the eight segment. The caudal pyramid in ventral view is the best distinguishing character between the larvae and exuviae of both species. These differences are in agreement with the description by Peeters (1991). From the larvae I transported to The Netherlands my odonatological companion Frank Bos was able to rear one male successfully. It emerged on 3 May 1999 at 20.30. The adult was fed with flies and kept alive for 10 days until 13 May 1999. We fed the adult by holding it by the four wings upside down, feeding it flies with a set of tweezers.

Boyeria cretensis


Calopteryx splendens cretensis Pongracz, 1911

The larvae of Calopteryx splendens cretensis captured are very much like those of other Calopteryx-species. If this is a good subspecies or even a species is still in discussion. Both larvae died while trying to rear them. From one of the larvae Henri Dumont has got one of the legs for DNA analysis for comparing the species of the Calopteryx-complex from the Middle East. He had a surprising result from the DNA analysis and wrote me: "Calopteryx splendens cretensis: had greater differences compared to other splendens-forms (it even differed more from C. splendens as good Calopteryx species like Calopteryx orientalis, C. syriaca and C. ancilla)."

Calopteryx splendens cretensis


Coenagrion intermedium Lohmann, 1990

The Coenagrionidae larvae I collected turned out to be a Coenagrion species: it had the characteristic dots on the upper head. After rearing it turned out to be Coenagrion intermedium. Lohmann has only recently described the adult of Coenagrion intermedium in 1990 as a subspecies of Coenagrion ponticum. Battin (1992) has proved it’s a good species, which was followed by Lohmann (1993) and thus is followed here.

Battin (1991) has described the larva. It is a relatively short larva, belonging to the puella-group (sensu Lohmann, 1990). It has been reared, and the exuvium has been scanned. Frank Bos has reared the larvae of this species. The reared female had a total length of 33 mm and a hind wing length of 20 mm. He noticed that the reared female of Coenagrion intermedium looks in some ways like Coenagrion scitulum: the proportion of the sides of the pterostigma is 2:1. It might be that the only record of the latter species (see Lopau & Wendler, 1995) refers to a record of female of Coenagrion intermedium.

Coenagrion ponticum


Observed adults

Only two dragonfly species were seen on wing during my stay in the beginning of April on Crete. The first species seen was Hemianax ephippiger. The localities were it was found were often olive tree yards. These individuals had most likely been carried by desert winds on 24 March 1999 from the Sahara, Northern-Africa a week before this sighting. I encountered this species on six localities with a total of 24 individuals. On the island large locusts (maybe Schistocerca gregaria) were seen in small numbers in shrubs. Probably they invaded the island in the same period. From Sympetrum fonscolombii I found one rather juvenile male on the central south of Crete.

Sympetrum fonscomlombii

List of localities

The major larval locality was in the river a little east of Mixorrouma (Mixórrouma; 35º 13' North 24º 30' East). The river is seepage fed and had a width of 5 meter. The second larval locality was south of the village of Spili (Spílion; 35º 13' North 24º 32' East). The village lies at the feet of mountain Kedros and is the capital of the Province of Ayios Vasileios. Both localities lay 18 km South-southeast of Rethimnon (Réthimnon), Crete's second largest city.

On 7 April 1999 I collected here Boyeria cretensis, Calopteryx splendens cretensis and Coenagrion intermedium.

The data and localities were Hemianax ephippiger was found: 3 April 1999 Chersonissos, Eastside of town, (2 individuals) and same date south from this locality (1 individual); 4 April 1999 Malia, excavation palace (10 individuals over 250 meter), Malia hillsides (1 female); 6 April 1999: Siva Southwest (5 individuals), Matala Northeast (1 individual).7 April 1999, excavation palace Phestos (3 individuals); 7 April 1999, Koxare (1 individual).

The Sympetrum fonscolombii locality: 6 April 1999: Siva Southwest, North of Matala (1 juvenile male).


Battin, T., 1991. Description of the larva of Coenagrion intermedium Lohmann, 1990 from Crete, Greece (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae). Odonatologica 20(3): 333-336.

Battin, T. 1992. Revision of the puella group of the genus Coenagrion Kirby, 1890 (Odonata, Zygoptera), with emphasis on morphologies contribution to reproduction isolation. In: T.J. Battin, Damsels and dragons: the impact of sex vicariance on speciation, pp. 44-64, DiplArb. Univ. Wien.

Boudot, J.-P., 1998. Differences in male colour patterns between Boyeria cretensis Peters, 1991 and B. irene (Fonscolombe, 1838) (Odonata: Aeshnidae). Opuscula zoologica fluminensia 161: 1-3.

Lohmann, H. 1990. Coenagrion ponticum intermedium subspec. nov. von der Insel Kreta, Griechenland (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Opuscula zoologica fluminensia 54: 1-7.

Lohmann, H., 1993. Coenagrion vanbrincki spec.nov. und C. persicum spec. nov. aus Vorausien (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae) Odonatologica 22(2): 203-211.

Lopau, W. & A. Wendler, 1995. Arbeitsatlas zur Verbreitung der Libellen in Griechenland und der umliegenden Gebieten. Naturkdl. Reiseber. 5: 1-109.

Peters, G., 1991. Die Schattenlibelle auf Creta Boyeria cretensis (spec. nov.) und die Monophylie der Gaflung Boyeria McLachian, 1896 (Odonata Anisoptera, Aeshnidae). Dt. ent. Z. (N.F.) 38(1/3): 161-196.

Photos: Frank Bos & Marcel Wasscher

Marcel Wasscher Minstraat 15 bis 3582 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands