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Pulished in Malangpo.
Exact reference is:
Kosterin, O. E., Vikhrev, N. E. 2006. Odonata seen for three days in a populated lowland part of Cambodia. - Malangpo 21: 212-217.

Odonata seen for three days in a populated lowland part of Cambodia.

Oleg E. Kosterin

Institute of Cytology & Genetics of Siberian Division of Russian Academy of Sciences, Acad. Lavrentiev ave. 10, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia.

Nikita E. Vikhrev

Tallinskaya str. 32 corpus 1, app. 139, Moscow, 123458, Russia.

Abstract. A report about Odonata met during three day long trips to the Siem Reap area of Cambodia on January 7-9, 2006 is given in a form of field notes. 24 species were met with, of which Heliocypha biforata (Selys, 1859), Lestes concinnus Hagen in Selys, 1862, Aciagrion borneense Ris, 1911, Agriocnemis minima Selys, 1877, A. nana (Laidlaw, 1914), Ceriagrion praetermissum Lieftink, 1929, Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842), Brachydiplax chalybea Brauer, 1868, Brachythemis contaminata (Fabricius, 1793), Crocothemis servilia (Drury, 1770), Neurothemis tullia (Drury, 1773), Rhodothemis rufa (Rambur, 1842) have not been reported for Cambodia in literature (although the published records are very scarce per se).


So far there is no list of odonate fauna of Cambodia compiled. The list present in Tsuda (2000) is very incomplete (Hamalainen, 2004) and misses even many species common everywhere in Indochina. Further data by some authors remain still unpublished. Even a preliminary list is not to be expected in near future, since the densely populated lowland mainland of Cambodia is almost deprived from natural habitats while the little explored mountains are hardly accessible for a number of reasons including absence of roads, mines and even remainders of Khmer Issarak. In this situation we feel useful to provide a short report about odonates seen by us in our three-day long trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, that is to the area although invaluable in historical and cultural respects, at the same time one of the most uninteresting in Cambodia with respect to Nature.

Field notes.

In late morning of January 7, we took a taxi at the Khao-Khitchakut National Park, Chanthaburi Province, Thailand and departed to the border pass at Ban Laem. The road was excellent, and plantations and groves at its sides were very neat and lovely. At the left we passed the famous and monumentally looking Khao-Soi-Dao Mountain, the top of which was hidden in a low cloud. We had little idea how long the way is and were quite struck seeing ahead in some village the Thai and Cambodian banners together. Coming closer we saw quite explicit a scenery: behind a bridge through quite a deep ravine, with a lot of rubbish and a narrow stream, we saw a square of a dusty barren ground surrounded by gloomy grey 1-2 floor buildings adorned with naive advertisement, and a lot of people, partly on motocycles, partly obviously being beggars. Except for the latter, the picture looked like some remote village in a perypherial Soviet Union (South Siberia or Central Asia) about 20 years ago and so left no doubt that we faced a recent reign of communism. The Thai car could not pass the border. After quite a long anticipation of visas among many similar Europeans (who all proceeded to or from Angkor) we had to take a taxi proposed by a border officer. She was a lovely looking ‘slightly’ pregnant young women with a typical Khmer face and in an uniform, smily but in fact made of steel in her intentions. We paid her but not to two taxists who changed one another in the depth of country, that means that all the chain was firmly controlled by her or someone else. She looked like a personage of some film like "Indochina’ and as if illustrated some aspects of the recent Cambodian history. At the border office we encounreted a first odonate: on a shady branch of a large tree growing above the ravine, a female of Heliocypha b. biforata (Selys, 1859) was perching at above a head height.

So we immersed into Cambodia on board of a snow-white Toyota. The ground road with rough margins as if yesterday piled by a buldozer, the right-side traffic and the KAMAZ trucks and BELARUS tractors met repeatedly again reminded us a deep province of Russia. Yet there were differences: a lot of byciclers, palms, every rare car signalling permanently, abundance of children, exotic food like fried crickets or frogs sold at roadsides, and houses raised on piles. The land was almost entirely used for agriculture, mostly arboreal, only rare grassy pastures with sparse trees looked semi-natural. We noticed a curios evidence of agricultural pressure: by the road butterflies Papilio demoleus frequently occur: the species is a common pest of Citrus, but in Thailand we met with the only individual for a fortnight. After hours of passing a very regular land, we reached a huge lake spread behind the horizon and surrounded with several conical hills. Its surface was totally covered with a carpet of salvinia and lotos which left no open water. Our driver, although hardly speaking a couple English words, readily communicated us, mostly by gestures, that in this lake Pol Pot has drawn so many people but did not help us with its name. All we could infer from the map was that it was situated near Phumi Kdol Kraom. We made a short stop and saw several Neurothemis t. tullia (Drury, 1773) of both sexes. At the very bank we collected a tiny female of Ceriagrion praetermissum Lieftink, 1929, grey with a brigh red on eyes (naturally we were not awaring that this small and stout damsel belongs to the genus Ceriagrion as some other its representatives which we saw in Germany and Thailand).

Soon we were to change the taxi, and the road acquired an asphalt cover. But the fuel was also changed to some terrible surrogate, and the air in the car was hard to resist. The surroundings appeared more or less suburban, with shallow dirty reservoirs with lotoses and ducks at the houses. After a while, we entered and left the city of Battambang. The landscape changed to quite a specific and boring type. It was an absolutely flat greyish plain covered with remnants of cut grass – obviously rise, and regularly crossed with shallow and dirty channels, full of fishing nets and with some almost naked fishermen as well. There were sparse groves, and when no channel or palm was seen, the whole scenery looked like a Russian countryside in some steppen region in October. The road was, however, brick red and produced huge amount of red dust (nothing like this in the first half of our trip). This was a laterite ground, that evidenced of quite recent a coverage by a tropical rainforest. The rare villages looked also quite ‘Russian’, with schools being the largest buildings, and with some transparants spread above the road. In one of those, any passing transport stopped as if to wash the car or couch, but in fact to allow people to sell something to strangers. After quite a long way of the red road, asphalt suddenly re-appeared. Those days in Cambodia we noticed a strange fact: along the roads we permanently saw some cows grazing, but if the road was aphalted then buffaloes also added. We had no idea what kind of false correlation we faced (perhaps, with a welfare of the district). We proceed moving already in twilight. In villages around there appeared electricity, but mostly it was used in constructions we supposed to be cricket traps: a vertcally set sheet of white linen with a luminiscent lamp above a small reservoir with water made of polyethilen. We were also struck of huge herds of ducks at some houses. After quite a long way, illuminated luxuriant hotels appeared in plenties, all with the word ‘Angkor’ in the title. This already resembled not Soviet Union but United States: to us it looked like some Las Vegas (at last as soon as we haven’t been there). It was Siem Reap. All the people there ware white shirts and spoke a good English, all the currency was US dollars, mostly one and two dollar banknotes used in markets and for transportation.

Next day we started with visiting the notorious Angkor Wat. The complex was surrounded with a wide artificial pond. At its banks, the most numerous dragonfly was Trithemis pallidinervis (Kirby, 1889), in plenties sitting on the foremost sandstone constructions of Angkor but preferring the ropes bordering the stone passage to the complex. On stones on the bank of a pond males of Orthetrum s. sabina (Drury, 1770) perched, in grass we found Aciagrion borneense Ris, 1911. Also we observed an ovipositing female of Tramaea (most probably T. transmarina euryale Selys, 1878)

In front of the main temple, there were two square-shaped shallow ponds with stony banks, full or flourishing purple nymphaeas. There was quite a set of common odonates: very many O. sabina, quite common Neurothemis tullia, Trithemis pallidinervis, Crocohtemis s. servillia (Drury, 1770), few Brachythemis contaminata (Fabricius, 1793). Of damselfiles, there were many Ischnura senegalensis (Rambur, 1842) and Agriocnemis. Among the latter, there were some males of A. nana (Laidlaw, 1914). Most of the rest Agriocnemis were identifiable as A. minima Selys, 1877. The males were greenish with orange tip of abdomen, there were two oval-shaped spots of the ground colour on a black mark of abdominal tergite 2, and diffuse dark more or less triangular dorsal marks on three last abdominal segments. Unfortunately, we did not collect any male and only three females. Two had a blueish-green ground colour and a well espressed dark pattern, with dark patches slightly inflating on abdominal segments 8 and 9; there were also well-expressed humeral stripes on the thorax. The third female was striking: it was radically red, the black pattern was reduced to some hardly noticeable remnants of streaks between abdominal segments, some tiny dots at wing bases, the spines on the legs, a black trapezoid area on the occiput, a black streak between the rhynarium and nasus and a black basal half of the labrum. In both female forms, the prothorax had a slight and very wide ledge of its hind margin which well looked lik that despicted for A. minima by van Tol (1990), maybe with a trend of ledge to more strongly protrude at the centre than at the sides. All three females are kept with me, and their live photos can be seen at in a search for Agriocnemis minima.

Inside the inner court of the temple, several Pantala flavescens (Fabricius, 1798) flew above the lawn.

In the afternoon we decided to visit the famous huge ancient artificial reservoir, loc. ‘barai’. It was an impressive amount of hot and clean water, seemingly with a level greatly variable seasonally, with steep artificial clayey banks and lacking any aquatic and semiaquatic vegetation. There were no odonates at the water. at the bushes along the surrounding road there were, as usual, many O. sabina, few Neurothemis tullia and one male of Neurothemis fulvia (Drury, 1773). Apart of Barai, there was something like a seminatural habitat: some pasture with groves and bushes, and along the road there went a good channel several metres wide surrounded with various emerging vegetation. And there were quite many odonates. In grass hanging above the water, there were plenty Copera ciliata (Selys, 863), both mature (white) and immature (reddish). Perches at the water were occupied by males of C. servilia., we also encountered several females of Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842) and a male of Brachydiplax c. chalybea Brauer, 1868. In small grass in several metres of water, and above some shallow pools, we found plenty of Agriocnemis, among which there were not so scarce A. nana, and also Aciagrion borneense. Besides, we collected another female and took a photo of a young male of Ceriagrion praetermissum. The male has brownish grey thorax, legs, head and eyes (still not red) and a tan-reddish abdomen. We also collected quite a large Ceriagrion female with green thorax, blueish eyes and reddish-ochraceous abdomen, with segments 3-7 turned above towards tan-brown. Although it had no blue colour but on the eyes, the unique lamina mesostigmalis allowed to identify it as C. cerinorubellum (Brauer, 1865), as depicted in Ashanina (1976). Probably it was a young, not fully coloured female. Not far from a channel, high in air at some trees several Rhyothemis were soaring. We collected one and it appeared to be a male of R. p. phyllis (Sulzer, 1776) (that is the first male fo Rhyothemis we met for both our Indochinese trips). In a gap between the bushes between the channel and barai, we found an old, strongly darkened female of Rhodothemis rufa (Rambur, 1842) which sat on a bush branch.

In the evening we revisited Angkor Wat. At the temple walls we collected and photographed a young male of Ceriagrion olivaceum Laidlaw, 1914 which was somewhat smaller than those we saw several days at Pattaya and in the Khao Khitchakut National Park in Thailand several days ago (abdomen 30 mm, hind wing 18 mm while those had abdomen 32 mm, hind wing 19 mm) but coloured in the same way: abdomen fulvous-ochraceous, head dull-brownish, eyes and pterothorax greenish, on the sutures of the latter marked with inconspicuous reddish-brown stripes. Unfortunately, the appendages of this young specimens were later broken, but the mesostigmal plate and penile organ were identical to the Thai specimens. On the moat pond bank we observed several teneral Ceriagrion sp., which remained unidentified. Above the nymphaea ponds, many Tollymis tilarga (Fabricius, 1798) flew in twilight.

Next day was nearly lost. We took a taxi and for several hours were brought to the pass at the north-western border, next to Aranyaprathet settlement on the Thai side. The red dusty road went through the same empty flatland as two days before. During two stops we examined roadside pools and found them very poor in odonates. In first case (the pool was with flowering Nymphoides sp. with white flowers) we saw males of Crocothemis servilia and Orthetrum sabina, a female of Brachythemis contaminata and a blue male of Pseduagrion (most probably P. australasiae); in the second case (near the town) both sexes of C. servilia and again a female of B. contaminata. At the pass we were struck with information that Thailand issues visa upon arrival only in airports but not in terrestrial entries. We had to take another taxi back and in the afternoon arrived at the Siem Reap international airport. We had to wait our flight to Bangkok and examined a wasting land near the airport. It was a poor grassland with some bushes and quite high termite hills, there were some very shallow pools with water gyacynth. Odonates were not too scarce in that wasting land. We met many Aciagrion borneense of both sexes, one male of Pseudagrion australasiae Selys, 1876 and one female of the same genus and probably the same species (it had a reddish pterothorax without black pattern and greenish abdomen with a black dorsal stripe throughout), many Diplacodes nebulosa (Fabricius, 1793) of both sexes, one D. trivialis (Rambur, 1842), a female of N. tullia and met with the only Lestid for all our the Thailand-Cambodia trip: it was a male of Lestes concinnus Hagen in Selys, 1862. At the bank of a almost dried pool there was T. pallidinervis.

List of collected specimens

A list of localities, with their conventional names.

Ban Laem: a border pass at Ban Laem

Lake: a large lake at Phumi Kdol Kraom, between Ban Laem and Battambang, surrounded with several hills, with the surface clad with lotos and salvinia.

Aangkor Wat: artificial ponds at the Angkor Wat historical complex at Siem Reap

Barai: surroundings of the artificial lake Barai at Siem Reap, including an artificial ditch and small pools

Siem Reap Airport: a bushy wasting land at the Siem Reap Airport, with some pools.

A list of specimens.

Heliocypha biforata (Selys, 1859)

Ban Laem, 1 f, 7.I.

Lestes concinnus Hagen in Selys, 1862

Siem Reap Airport: 1 m, 9.I.

Aciagrion borneense Ris, 1911

Angkor: 1 f, 8.I. Siem Reap Airport, 3 m 1 f.

Agriocnemis minima Selys, 1877

Angkor, 2 f, 8.I.

Agriocnemis nana (Laidlaw, 1914)

Angkor: 2 m, 8.I.

Ceriagrion cerinorubellum (Brauer, 1865).

Barai, 1 f, 8.I.

Ceriagrion olivaceum Laidlaw, 1914.

Angkor: 1 m, 8.I.

Ceriagrion praetermissum Lieftink, 1929

Lake, 1 f, 7.I; Barai, 1 f, 8.I.

Pseudagrion australasiae (Selys, 1876)

Siem Reap airport, 1 m ?1 f, 9.I.;

Copera ciliata (Selys, 1863)

Barai, 1 m 1 f, 8.I.

Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842)

Siem Reap Airport, 1 f, 9.I.

Diplacodes nebulosa (Fabricius, 1793)

Siem Reap Airport: 1 m, 9.I.

Neurothemis tullia (Drury, 1733)

Barai: 1 m 1 f, 8.I.

Rhodothemis rufa (Rambur, 1842).

Barai: 1 f, 9.I.

Rhyothemis p. phyllis (Sulzer, 1776)

Barai, 1 m, 8.I.


Hämäläinen (2004) has pointed out that the list of 36 species Odonata of Cambodia published in Tsuda (2000) is extremely incomplete and estimates the number of species already collected in Cambodia without record publication as 60-80. Three more species were added in the same year by Donnely (2000). For three days in desnely populated areas of Cambodia we saw 24 species of odonates (including a not identified Tramaea), most of them very common and widespread. Twelwe of them were not, however, listed for Cambodia either by Tsuda (2000) or Donnely (2000): Heliocypha biforata, Lestes concinnus, Aciagrion borneense, Agriocnemis minima, A. nana, Ceriagrion praetermissum, Diplacodes trivialis, Brachydiplax chalybea, Brachythemis contaminata, Crocothemis servilia, Neurothemis tullia, Rhodothemis rufa. Seven of these species are in parallel reported for the Siem Reap area by Phil Benstead in this issue as well.

The sad events of the recent Cambodian history left so many mines in that country and so rectricted the places frequently visited by foreigners at present to the areas of Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap, both being densely populated. The area of Siem Reap is most popular for the famous Angkor Wat and other ancient constructions, and it still retains some remnants of natural habitats. It is natural that most recent reports, such as that by Donnely (2000), Benstead (this issue) and this one, concern mostly this area. Noteworthy that even these short lists of species occasionally seen for very short visits to this place (but in different seasons) do not overlap to a great extent. This may indicate that even this easily accessible area is quite rich of odonates and deserves a special study.


We are greatly indebted to Matti Hämäläinen, Finland, and Rory Dow, England, for valuable consultatins and the help with literature.


Asahina, S. 1967. A revision of the damselflies of the Asiatic genus Ceriagrion (Odonata, Agrionidae). Japanese Journol of Zoology 15 (3): 255-334.

Donnely, N. [T. W.]. 2000. Farangpo2000 - Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia. Argia 12(3): 18-21. Reprinted in Malangpo 17: 160-162: 2000.

Hämäläinen, M. 2004. Critical species of Odonata in Thailand and Indochina. International Journal of Odonatology 7 (2): 295-304.

Tsuda, S. 2000. A distributional list of world Odonata 2000. Tsuda, Osaka.

van Tol, J. 1990. Zoological expeditions to the Krakatau Islands, 1984 and 1985: Odonata. Descriptions and records of Malesian Odonata, 2. Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 133: 273-279.

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