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Volume 85, 1957-58
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Research Note
Notes on the Occurrence of Hemianax papuensis (Burm.) in New Zealand

[Received by Editor, October 18, 1957.]


Hemianax papuensis (Burmeister) is added to the New Zealand list with notes on its identification, and reasons for its having been overlooked are suggested.


This, the second largest of the New Zealand dragonflies, appears to have been overlooked as a New Zealand species, as no mention of it is in the literature, unless Hutton (1898) had a specimen in with his collection of Aeschna brevistyla (Ramb.) as he describes A. brevistyla as having “The costal nervure reddish or yellow”. The yellow costal nervure in my series is typical of Hemianax papuensis rather than A. brevistyla.


Fraser (1957) who identified this species for me, gives the following taxonomic points for separating the males of H. papuensis from A. brevistyla, which I include as a description of the species is not easily available in New Zealand.

H. papuensis (Burmeister).


No yellow stripes on the lateral surface of the thorax.


Bright yellow costal border and long pterostigma.


Vein R 2 making an abrupt curve forwards just below the pterostigma.


Rounded base in the hind wings of both sexes.


Oreillets absent on the sides of segment 2.


Lateral ridges on the sides of the abdomen absent.


The carinal ridge on the superior anal appendage at the apex spine like in profile.


Inferior anal appendage, short, quadrate, spined on the surface.

In the field this species can easily be recognised on the wing because of the absence of the yellow stripes on the lateral aspect of the thorax, and the two terminal abdominal segments are lighter and brighter in colour than the rest of the abdomen, this is particularly noticeable in the females.

Measurements Male New Zealand specimens gave the following:—

Abdomen without anal appendages 45 to 47 mm
Hind wing 46 to 48 mm

The females are slightly larger.

Distribution. This is a common dragonfly in parts of Australia and some of the Pacific Islands, and has been taken in New Zealand on the following occasions:—

Date. Sex. Place.
20.3.1926 Female Swamp below Aratiatia Rapids, Waikato River.
26.3.1935 Female Swamp on upper reaches of Waipehi Stream.
7.2.1943 Male Acacia Bay, Lake Taupo.
26.3.1945 Male Acacia Bay, Lake Taupo.
4.1.1957 Male Waitahanui Backwater, Lake Taupo.
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12.1.1957 2 Males Waitahanui Backwater, Lake Taupo.
17.1.1957 Male Waitahanui Backwater, Lake Taupo.
15.3.1941 Male Tangoio Reserve, Hawke's Bay.

This species has frequently been seen and often caught and liberated again during the past thirty years in the Taupo district, and I have no doubt that it has bred regularly in this district.

Fraser states that the distribution is of interest as New Zealand is the most southerly point yet reached by any Hemianax.

The reasons for Hemianax papuensis having been overlooked as a New Zealand species are:—


It flies late in the season, usually being two to three weeks later on the wing than A. brevistyla, which it most resembles in size and general colouration. The males are often flying a month before the females.


It usually flies in inaccessible places, the females seem to keep to extensive bullrush-covered swamps, and when they settle do so on the heads of the rushes growing in deep water or mud, their brown colour harmonising well with that of the rush head; it is probably at the base of a rush that they oviposit.

The males when first on the wing often fly in company with A. brevistyla, but their hawking flights are almost always over deep water areas, such as Acacia Bay, and the “Borrow-pits” near the Waitahanui River, and rarely over dry land; this makes the species easy to see but hard to capture, as they are quick in flight and very wary.


Since writing the above I have received a publication from Dr. M. A. Lieftinck, in which he records taking 1 ♂ Anax papuensis (Burm.) on 25.2.49. Lake Pupuke, Takapuna, Auckland, and states: “As far as I know, A. papuensis has not previously been reported from New Zealand In January, 1949. it was fairly common at Lake Pupuke, near Auckland, several pairs being observed flying “per collum” low over the water, but none could be captured. Weeks later, most specimens had disappeared and only a single ♂ was netted.”


Fraser, Lieut-Col. F. C., 1957. Brit. Mus, priv. corresp.

Hutton, F. W., 1898. Trans. N. Z. Inst, 31: 224.

Lieftinck, M. A., 1953. Verh. Naturf. Ges. Basel. 64: 182.

Dr. J. S. Armstrong

“Clova,” 3 Titiraupenga Street,