It was apparent in 2012 that there was a lack of data on dragonflies, not only on Cyprus but in the eastern Mediterranean in general, so it was decided to set up the Cyprus Dragonfly Study Group (CDSG). Since the beginning of 2013 the group has been carrying out regular monitoring at sites on the island, selected to include all the then known species and habitat types and to give good geographic coverage. The CDSG constantly seeks out new sites to monitor and this resulted in records from 703 sites island-wide, 136 of which have been monitored for at least two years. Cyprus Odonata database now contains just over 35,000 records.

Map of dragonflies and damselflies in Cyprus

Map of localities from which dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded by the CDSG on Cyprus (n = 703). The red dots relate to sites (n = 136) that have been monitored for at least two years, and the green dots to other non-regularly surveyed sites.

Cyprus is a water-stressed island with an average rainfall level of ca. 480 mm pa, but there are wide variations over the island. The precipitation pattern and topography result in the main rivers on Cyprus flowing down the south-western slopes of the Troodos Massif close to Paphos and many of the island’s lotic species are restricted to this area making Paphos the best base for dragonfly observation on the island.

There are a modest 37 species on the Odonata Checklist for Cyprus. Of these, three species, Ischnura pumilio (Small Bluetail), Aeshna affinis (Blue-eyed Hawker) and Brachythemis impartita (Banded Groundling) have not been recorded during ten years of monitoring by the Cyprus Dragonfly Study Group and are assumed to be no longer present on the island. A further two species, Lestes barbarus (Migrant Spreadwing) and Sympetrum meridionale (Southern Darter) are extremely rare, and Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker) which was only reported from the island in 2019, is only known from one location. Sufficient data are available for the status, phenology and distribution of the remaining species to be determined with a high degree of confidence.

The checklist of Odonata of Cyprus and the status of each species.

Although only a modest number of species, Cyprus does have several charismatic species, in particular Epallage fatime (Odalisque), Caliaeschna microstigma (Eastern Spectre) and Anax immaculifrons (Magnificent Emperor), and is home to the island’s speciality, the range restricted Ischnura intermedia (Persian Bluetail).

Epallage fatime (Odalisque)♀
Anax immaculifrons (Magnificent emperor) ♂
Ischnura intermedia (Persian Bluetail)♂
Ischnura intermedia (Persian Bluetail) ♀ in the aurantiaca development phase.

With its position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and Africa, Cyprus has a mix of species found in all three continents and in many cases the island is at the geographical extremity of the species’ range. For example, Cyprus is at the northern extremity of the African species Trithemis arteriosa (Red-veined Dropwing) and Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer). Both of these species have dramatically increased their presence on the island in recent years, which is attributed to global warming. Furthermore, Cyprus is at the north-western extremity of the range of Orthetrum sabina (Slender Skimmer), Orthetrum taeniolatum (Small Skimmer) and Trithemis festiva (Indigo Dropwing). The thermophilic O. sabina which was previously confined to low levels and small populations has drastically increased its distribution range on Cyprus, occupied higher altitudes and with significantly larger population sizes, again a consequence of global warming. On the other hand, Cyprus is at the southern extremity of the range of Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed skimmer). This species is particularly partial to open waters at cooler, higher altitudes, where it is the most abundant species. Ongoing global warming may be challenging for the Cyprus populations of this species and we can expect it to gravitate to higher altitude to avoid the increasing temperatures.

Trithemis arteriosa (Red-veined Dropwing)♂
Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer) ♂
Orthetrum sabina (Slender Skimmer) ♂
Trithemis festiva (Indigo Dropwing) ♂
Orthetrum taeniolatum (Small Skimmer) ♂

Cyprus has an extreme Mediterranean climate with rainfall mainly restricted to the winter months. Annual rainfall levels, however, are very variable and we have found that there is a strong correlation between the winter rainfall level and dragonfly abundance the following spring and summer – the higher the rainfall, the higher the abundance. The winter so far this year has been wetter than average, so it’s fingers crossed that there will be a good abundance of dragonflies in June 2023 during the congress.