Odonate Habitats

Habitat preference

Types of habitats

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, odonates live in the following habitats.

  • Lentic: ponds (boggy ponds, cypress ponds, fishless ponds, lily ponds, marshy ponds, montane lily ponds, montane ponds, ponds with duckweed, salt ponds, sandy ponds, swampy ponds); lakes (muddy lakes, sandy lakes); marshes (brackish marshes, salt marshes); swamps (swamps with duckweed, swampy lakes); and seeps (boggy seeps, seepage areas).
  • Lotic: streams (boggy streams, cold streams, rocky streams, sandy streams, slow boggy streams, slow streams, sluggish streams, small streams, spring-fed streams, warm streams); and rivers (cold rivers, large rivers, rocky rivers, sandy rivers, sluggish rivers, small rivers, warm rivers).
  • Terrestrial: [fields and]; forests.

Links to specific habitat-related blog posts

(listed in reverse chronological order)

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male) [posted on 28 August 2019]

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (female) [posted on 16 August 2019]

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly [posted on 09 August 2019]

Another seep deep in the forest [posted on 24 July 2019]

Another Common Sanddragon [posted on 10 July 2019]

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) [posted on 03 July 2019]

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female) [posted on 27 May 2019]

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly [posted on 09 August 2018]

Another summer species of odonate [posted on 29 May 2018]

Lentic and lotic [posted on 03 October 2017]

Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (male) [posted on 17 June 2017]

Variable Dancer (mating pair, “in heart”) [posted on 23 November 2016]

The first and last dragonflies of 2015 [posted on 01 December 2015]

Fishless? Apparently not. [posted on 15 November 2015]

You look Familiar. [posted on 04 October 2015]

Vernal Pools are Wet and Dry [posted on 07 August 2015]

Vernal Pool [posted on 12 November 2014]

Another first! [posted on 29 September 2014]

In the beginning… [posted on 02 February 2014]

Boatwright’s Habitat Hotspots (on Facebook)

Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, shared photos of several types of odonate habitat.


forested seep and boardwalk in Bedford County where I recently found the county’s first Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

two of several boggy glacial sinkholes with Sphagnum moss and emergent grasses bordered by Virginia Sneezeweed and other herbaceous plants in deciduous forest. The water levels vary depending on rainfall and evaporation rate. In late fall, these ponds are good for the very rare Black-tipped Darner (Aeshna tuberculifera). Other good odes include three species of meadowhawk (Sympetrum), Double-ringed Pennant (Celithemis verna), Clamp-tipped Emerald (Somatochlora tenebrosa), and Spotted Spreadwing (Lestes congener).


Beck Creek, Amherst County

spring fed shallow stream in Amherst County where Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) abound. There is also another seepy area nearby.

Shallow, clear, moderately moving, sandy bottomed trout stream with brushy banks and nearby fields in forested area. Some emergent rocks and rocky/gravely riffles also present. Home to Brook Snaketail (Ophiogomphus aspersus). Carroll County, VA.

Large clean, shallow river with cobble and sandy bottom producing long gentle riffles. Large overhanging trees provide good perches. Good habitat for Arrow Clubtail (Stylurus spiniceps), Cinnamon Shadowdragon (Neurocordulia virginiensis), Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus), Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus), and Smoky Rubyspot (Hetaerina titia). Nelson County, Virginia.

Clear, shallow, partially shaded, forest stream with sandy and muddy bottom and emergent vegetation along banks. Also occasional rocky riffles. Perfect habitat for Laura’s Clubtail (Stylurus laurae). In fact, I and others have seen several males patrolling this stream, and occasionally perching on bank-side vegetation, in very late afternoon or early morning. Recently, I photographed a female perched on leaves near the top of one of the small trees (above the forked broken branch) on the right in the first photo.

Highland County – a high elevation shallow rocky stream with occasional riffles and intermittent beaver ponds running through meadows of sedges (and other herbaceous plants) and surrounded by mixed deciduous and coniferous forest. Home to many odonates more typical of climes of the northeastern US and Canada. Rare and uncommon odes found here include Riffle and Maine Snaketail, Harpoon Clubtail, Beaverpond Baskettail, Chalk-fronted Corporal, Dot-tailed Whiteface, White-faced Meadowhawk, Sedge Sprite, and Hagen’s Bluet.


Coastal Plain dirt road through open pine forest with woody and herbaceous undergrowth and sandy soil. This habitat is good for finding early morning and late afternoon patrolling Striped Emeralds (Somatochlora sp.) including Treetop (S. provocans), Fine-lined (S. filosa), Clamp-tipped (S. tenebrosa), and Mocha (S. linearis). Sussex County, VA.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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