Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail dragonflies

I spotted a couple of Clubtail dragonflies along the trail to Hidden Pond, a small lake located at Meadowood Recreation Area in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. These dragonflies are either Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Gomphis exilis). Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies are very similar in appearance and difficult to differentiate with complete certainty. I think both individuals are female, based upon their terminal appendages. Can I get an expert second opinion?

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Gomphus | Gomphus lividus | Ashy Clubtail | male | top view
  • Genus Gomphus | Gomphus lividus | Ashy Clubtail | male | side view
  • Genus Gomphus | Gomphus lividus | Ashy Clubtail | female | top view
  • Genus Gomphus | Gomphus lividus | Ashy Clubtail | female | side view

Editor’s Note: According to Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, both individuals are definitely female but the species is indefinite. Thanks for your help, Ed!

[Both photos] show females. The abdominal appendages are simple in form compared to males. … the rounded shape of the base of the hind wing identifies it as a female. What species they are is a tougher question. The pale Segment 9 on the female perched on the brown oak leaf suggests it is a Lancet but since Ashy can have that mark, Ashy can’t be ruled out. The female sitting on the ground ‘feels’ more like an Ashy, with limited abdominal markings, browner in appearance, eyes purple-er, but again, it can’t be confirmed from the picture alone. Ashy is usually larger and more brawny in appearance.

Remember that “Segment 9” refers to abdominal segment nine (of 10), numbered from front to back.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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