Dragonflies and Butterflies

The unspoiled rivers and other bodies of water in the Strait of Gibraltar hold many outstanding species of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata family). This is also true in the neighbouring regions of Cádiz and Malaga. Over 60 species occur in this European hotspot. This includes some of the rarest species in the continent and recent colonisers originating from Africa.


The Splendid Cruiser Macromia splendens and the Orange-spotted Emerald Oxygastra curtisii, are scarce relic survivors of wildlife that existed prior to the last ice age. They inhabit the best-preserved rivers around the Strait. By contrast, the Orange-winged Dropwing Trithemis Kirbyi is one of the latest additions to the European List of Dragonflies. It is following a rapid northwards expansion from Africa over the last decade. The Northern Banded Groundling Brachythemis impartita is widespread in La Janda. Despite its very restricted range in Europe, is one of the few dragonflies that will follow the observer rather than fly away when approached!

Other remarkable dragonflies include: Copper Demoiselle Calopterix haemorrhoidalis, Iberian Bluetail Ischnura graellsii, White Featherleg Platycnemis latipes, Vagrant Emperor Anax ephipigger, Epaulet Skimmer Orthetrum chrysostigma, Green Hooktail Paragomphus genei, Large Pincertail Onychogomphus uncatus and Western Spectre Boyeria Irene, to name a few.


The Monarch butterfly Danaus Plexippus is known to have reached Europe as a vagrant from the other side of the Atlantic. There is now a well-established breeding population in the Strait and you can find its colorful flying imagos throughout the year. In addition to monarchs, the Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius inhabits the Cork Oak forest. This is also a highly sought after butterfly in the Strait.

Other Insects

The Thread-winged-Lacewing Nemoptera bipennis is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and France. It has the appearance of being half  a butterfly and half a dragonfly. For many of us it is the most beautiful insect in the Strait!

Also, Mantises are abundant here. The Conehead Mantis Empusa pennata is probably the most striking representative of this charismatic family.

Because of the eye-catching designs of these insects, they are highly desirable targets and a source of inspiration for macro photographers.