Posts Tagged ‘Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly’

MYN – S. plagiatus exuvia (ventral composite)

March 4, 2020

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatusexuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 17 July 2019 along Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

17 JUL 2019 | Aquia Creek | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (ventral view)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

This specimen was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. I used the new variation on my old MYN studio rig and I’m still satisfied with the results.

Four photos were used to create a composite image: one photo focused on the thorax; and three other photos focused on abdominal segments two-three (S2-S3), seven (S7), and nine (S9).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Stylurus plagiatus exuvia (composite)

March 2, 2020

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatusexuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 17 July 2019 along Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

Two key field marks can be used to quickly identify both the genus and species of this specimen. Notice that abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus. The large dorsal hook of abdominal segment nine (S9) that overhangs segment 10 (S10) is a key marker for southern specimens of plagiatus.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

This specimen was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. I used the new variation on my old MYN studio rig and I’m still satisfied with the results.

Four photos were used to create a composite image: one photo focused on the head; and three other photos focused on abdominal segments five (S5), seven-eight (S7-S8), and 10 (S10).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Stylurus plagiatus exuvia

February 28, 2020

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) exuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 17 July 2019 along Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

17 JUL 2019 | Aquia Creek | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (face-head)

Notice the specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in the preceding photo. This field mark indicates the exuvia is from either Family Aeshnidae (Darners) or Family Gomphidae (Clubtails). Other field marks, including club-like antennae and the shape of the body, indicate this individual is a species of clubtail.

My next blog post will feature a dorsal-lateral view of the exuvia that clearly shows the field marks that indicate both genus and species.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

This specimen was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. I used the new variation on my old MYN studio rig and I’m still satisfied with the results.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Quick-and-dirty test shots

September 13, 2019

I took some quick-and-dirty test shots using a new piece of photo gear in combination with some old gear. The focus (no pun intended) was more about testing the camera rig and less about posing and lighting the subject perfectly.

~16mm (86mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/4.5 | 1/400 s | -2.66 ev

An exuvia from an unknown species of odonate was collected by Joe Johnston on 17 July 2019 along Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is definitely from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) and is probably a Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus).

Tech Tips

The macro photograph in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom digital camera, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic (New!), and a Godox TT685O Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode). The close-up filter screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Stylurus plagiatus exuvia

November 21, 2018

A Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus) exuvia was collected by Joe and Loren Johnston on 20 June 2018 from Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

Notice that abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus. The large dorsal hook of abdominal segment nine (S9) that overhangs segment 10 (S10) is a key marker for southern specimens of plagiatus.

The “working distance” for the 11mm Fujifilm extension tube/Fujinon 80mm macro lens combo, that is, the distance from the front of the lens barrel to the subject, is long enough to be able to use the lens hood.

Hotspots from external flash units, technically known as specular highlights, are more noticeable sometimes when the flash heads are closer to the subject. It appears the lens hood may have reduced that problem; more experimentation is required to be sure.

Related Resource: Stylurus plagiatus exuvia, a photo-illustrated identification guide.

The Backstory

Joe Johnston is an avid boater and sport fisherman. On 20 June 2018, Joe and his brother Loren were fishing together on Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

Fish require food and shelter. Sometimes fish shelter near trees that have fallen into water, or the wooden pilings of boat docks. Joe and Loren were casting artificial fishing lures toward one of several docks that extend far into Aquia Creek, when Loren’s lure snagged on one of the pilings. When Joe moved his boat alongside the piling in order to retrieve the fishing lure, Loren noticed an odonate exuvia on the side of the piling. Joe and Loren kindly collected several exuviae, including this one, and shared them with me. Thanks, gentlemen!

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); f/16; 1/500s.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Head-to-head

March 4, 2018

Head shots of an odonate exuvia from a Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) were taken using two macro lenses: Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (smallest aperture = f/32); Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (smallest aperture = f/16).

No. 1 | Canon EF 100mm Macro lens | f/22

Although there is more depth of field at f/22 than f/11, the more dramatic shot appears to be the one taken at higher magnification using the Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (shown below). Which photo do you prefer?

No. 2 | Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens | f/11

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo No. 1: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus, ~1x magnification); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite.

Photo No. 2: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 2x magnification); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite.

Sunpak LED-160 Video Light (with a white translucent plastic filter) was used for both photos.

Related Resource: Stylurus plagiatus exuvia.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stylurus plagiatus exuvia

March 2, 2018

Michael Powell collected several odonate exuviae during a photowalk along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including two damselflies and two dragonflies. The exact date is uncertain, although Mike thinks the exuviae were collected sometime between 19-23 July 2017.

Both dragonfly exuviae are from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), as indicated by a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face as well as club-like antennae. The smaller specimen was identified as an Erpetogomphus designatus exuvia; this post describes the decision tree used to identify the larger specimen.

No. 1 | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (face-head)

Refer to Photo No. 2, 3, and 4. Notice that abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus.

The dichotomous key for Stylurus larvae that appears on pp. 310-312 in Dragonflies of North America, Third Edition by Needham et al. was used to identify the species of the exuvia. The ninth couplet [9, 9′] is as follows.

9(7’). Length of abdominal segment 9 at least equal to its basal width; lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 at least 1-1/2 times as long as those of segment 8; dorsal hook of segment 9 often large, in southern specimens overhanging segment 10; each labial palp with 3 teeth in addition to end hook; greatest width of prementum at least 4/5 its length. [plagiatus]
9’. Length of abdominal segment 9 less than its basal width; lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 no more than 1-1/2 times as long as those of segment 8; dorsal hook of segment 9 small, sometimes vestigial; labial palp with 2-3 teeth in addition to end hook; greatest width of prementum no more than 3/4 its length. [10]

Abdominal segment nine (S9) is slightly longer than its basal width, as shown in Photo No. 2. The lateral spines of segment nine (S9) are much longer than segment eight (S8).

No. 2 | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (dorsal)

Photo No. 3 shows a dorsal view of the distal abdomen. Notice the large dorsal hook of abdominal segment nine (S9) overhangs segment 10 (S10), a key field mark for southern specimens of plagiatus. The dorsal hook couldn’t be seen before the exuvia was cleaned.

No. 3 | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (dorsal)

The flat labium doesn’t cover the face, as shown in Photo No. 4 and 5.

No. 4 | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (ventral)

Photo No. 5 shows a close-up of the prementum. Each labial palp features at least three (3) teeth in addition to the end hook. The greatest width of the prementum is approximately four-fifths (4/5) of its length.

No. 5 | Stylurus plagiatus | exuvia (prementum)

This specimen is confirmed as an exuvia from a Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus).

The Backstory

Photo No. 6, featured in a recent blog post entitled Getting Started, is focused on abdominal segment nine (S9).

This specimen may need to be cleaned in order to see more clearly some key field marks used for identification.

No. 6 | Potomac River, Fairfax County, VA | odonate exuvia

The specimen was soaked in soapy water for at least 24 hours. A plastic spoon was used to scoop the exuvia from the water bath and transfer it to a dry plastic tray. Then a soft artist’s paintbrush was used to clean the exuvia, with extra attention on abdominal segment nine (S9). Two damselfly exuviae are soaking in the same water bath, shown below. Other useful tools include a magnifying glass and a plastic toothpick.

The odonate exuviae cleaning station at BoG Photo Studio.

The exuvia is pliable after soaking in water for at least 24 hours. After the specimen was cleaned, it was posed and allowed to dry for another day. The handle of a plastic spoon is a good drying rack that makes it easier to pose the legs. The Stylurus plagiatus exuvia is shown in the following photograph. The broken leg resting on the handle of the spoon was attached to the body only by spider web.

Stylurus plagiatus exuvia, posed on the handle of a plastic spoon.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo No. 1, 2 and 4: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin LitePhoto No. 3 and 5: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 2x magnification); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light (with a white translucent plastic filter) was used for some photos.

A Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera was used to take photos of the odonate exuviae cleaning station.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail (terminal appendages)

August 14, 2017

Male Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) have a larger, more colorful club than females of the same species, their hind wings are “indented,” and their terminal appendages are shaped differently. Compare and contrast the appearance of males and females by looking at the following annotated images.

Male

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Notice the epiproct is a wide “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the preceding annotated image.

Female

All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The hind wings of female clubtails are rounded.

21 AUG 2015 | Powhatan County, VA | Russet-tipped Clubtail (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The female Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly shown in the preceding image was spotted along the James River by my good friend Michael Boatwright, founder of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Sincere thanks to Mike for permission to use his photographs (background and inset).

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

  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | male | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | side view

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (males, eating)

February 13, 2017

Two Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) were spotted during photowalks at Mulligan PondJackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Both individuals are males, as indicated by the large russet-colored club at the end of their abdomen, “indented” hindwings (see annotated image), and their terminal appendages.

Members of the genus Stylurus are known as “Hanging Clubtails” because they usually perch hanging vertically from trees, unlike most other species of clubtails that perch horizontally on the ground.

Most of them spend much time in flight over water, leading to speculation whether species of this genus may feed in flight rather than from a perch like most other clubtails. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6127-6128). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Both of the male Russet-tipped Clubtails featured in this post were observed feeding from a perch in a tree, although a sample size of two may be insufficient for drawing a meaningful conclusion.

22 September 2016

The first individual is eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) .

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

The next photo is my favorite in the set. The color, clarity, and composition combine to create a beautiful canvas for conveying the brutality of the eat-or-be-eaten natural world.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

The last photo was shot using Aperture Priority mode in order to achieve maximum depth of field.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

27 September 2016

The last individual is eating an unknown species of winged insect.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating an unknown winged insect.

27 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2016

December 26, 2016

The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. Huh? There’s always more to discover/learn! My new discoveries in 2016 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly exuviae

Perithemis tenera exuviae, published on 06 December 2016.

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 JUL 2016 | Potomac River | Eastern Amberwing (exuvia, head-on)

I’m a man on a mission to demystify the art and science of odonate exuviae identification. The task is as challenging as I was led to believe, but with determination and persistence it is do-able.

The specimens featured in this post are the first odonate exuviae that I was able to identify to the species level. Although the specimens were collected in early July, they were identified in early December. New species will be added to my Odonate Exuviae page when their identity is confirmed.


Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) is a familiar location where several species, previously unknown to occur at the park, were discovered in 2016.

Shadow Darner dragonfly

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female), posted on 18 October 2016.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male), posted on 26 September 2016.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Another new species discovered at JMAWR, posted on 20 September 2016.

Lancet Clubtail dragonfly

Identifying clubtails by the calendar, posted on 30 June 2016.

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Lancet Clubtail (male)


In addition to my contributions to the odonate species list at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Mike Powell discovered the first official record of Swift Setwing at JMAWR and in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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