Horned Clubtail

Arigomphus cornutus (Tough, 1900)

Jan Trybula

Insecta (Insects)
Gomphidae (Clubtails)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

This species and Arigomphus furcifer (Lilypad clubtail) are each others closest relatives (sister taxa) (Ware et al., 2017).

State Ranking Justification

Horned clubtail is known from only a handful of sites in St. Lawrence County and probably recently colonized across the St. Lawrence River from nearby populations in Ontario, Canada, forming the extreme eastern range boundary of this upper Midwestern species.

Short-term Trends

This species was newly discovered in the state in 2006 during the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey (White et al., 2010).

Long-term Trends

This clubtail seems to be expanding its range eastward through the Great Lakes, as new sites continue to be discovered in the general vicinity of the initial St. Lawrence County find by Trybula (2006).

Conservation and Management


Land use practices which might damage shoreline vegetation and floating/emergent vegetation at breeding waters could make the habitat less suitable. Also, run-off from surrounding lands that might lead to lower dissolved oxygen, such as fertilizers, could also reduce favorable larval conditions.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Practices such as natural forested buffers that promote shoreline integrity and healthy stands of native emergent and floating vegetation should serve to benefit populations of this species.

Research Needs

Suitable habitats in Jefferson County and further to the east in the lowlands of Franklin and Clinton Counties should be surveyed to determine if this species is actively expanding its range.



This species is found at small marshy ponds and lakes, slow streams, and rivers with mucky bottoms and floating plants.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Backwater slough (guide)
    The aquatic community of quiet to stagnant waters in sloughs that form in embayments and old meanders that are cut off from an unconfined river or marsh headwater stream only at the upstream end by deposition of a levee.
  • Deep emergent marsh (guide)
    A marsh community flooded by waters that are not subject to violent wave action. Water depths can range from 6 in to 6.6 ft (15 cm to 2 m). Water levels may fluctuate seasonally, but the substrate is rarely dry, and there is usually standing water in the fall.
  • Oxbow lake/pond (guide)
    The aquatic community of a small, shallow, usually stagnant lake or pond of fluvial origin that occurs in an old river meander or oxbow that has been cut off from an unconfined river or marsh headwater stream by deposition of a levee. Typically, the associated river periodically overflows this levee, restoring river water and biota to this lake type.
  • Shallow emergent marsh (guide)
    A marsh meadow community that occurs on soils that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. This marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 6 in to 3.3 ft (15 cm to 1 m) during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid to late summer and the soil is exposed during an average year.

Associated Species

  • American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii)
  • Racket-tailed Emerald (Dorocordulia libera)
  • Marsh Bluet (Enallagma ebrium)
  • Chalk-fronted Skimmer (Ladona julia)
  • Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)
  • Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)
  • Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
  • Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis)


New York State Distribution

Thus far the Horned clubtail has only been found in the plains and foothills of central St. Lawrence County.

Global Distribution

It ranges from eastern Wyoming through southern Manitoba to Quebec, southwest through extreme northern New York to Indiana and Iowa.

Best Places to See

  • Upper and Lower Lakes WMA (St. Lawrence County)

Identification Comments

General Description

This is a large (5.5 cm) narrow- clubbed species with a greyish green thorax and black shoulder stripes, otherwise little striping on the thorax. The legs all black, eyes brilliant blue. Adbomen is black with pale yellowish to grey dorsal stripe, becoming spear points to rear ending at S8; S8-9 rusty orange.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The large and broad male claspers are distinctive and often visible in the field with binoculars. Females have "horns" (small protuberances) behind the eyes.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification



Like other Arigomphus, this wary species often lands on floating plants or on rocks jutting from the water, often just out of reach.


The larvae are generalist predators, while the adults feed on flying insects.

Best Time to See

In New York, this species is active and on the wing for about a month, from May 21 to June 21.

  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active

The time of year you would expect to find Horned Clubtail reproducing and larvae present and active in New York.

Similar Species

  • Lilypad Clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer)
    Males of this species have narrower and paler claspers, and less pale color on the tip of the abdomen. Females are more similar.
  • Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes)
    Males of this species have narrower and paler claspers, and less pale color on the tip of the abdomen. Females are more similar.

Horned Clubtail Images


Horned Clubtail
Arigomphus cornutus (Tough, 1900)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
          • Family Gomphidae (Clubtails)

Additional Resources


Jones, C.D., A. Kingsley, P. Burke, and M. Holder. 2008. The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and the surrounding area. Friends of Algonquin Park, Whitney, ON.

Mead, K. 2003. Dragonflies of the North Woods. Kollath-Stensaas Pub., Duluth, MN.

Muttkowski, E. A., and A. D. Whedon. 1915. On Gomphus cornutus Tough (Odonata). Bulletin of the Wisconsin Natural History Society 13:88-101.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Paulson, D. 2011. Dragonflies and damselflies of the east. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Paulson, D.R. and S.W. Dunkle. 1999. A checklist of North American Odonata. Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound Occasional Paper, 56: 86 pp. Available: http://www.ups.edu/x7015.xml.

Trybula, J. 2006. Arigomphus cornutus, a state record for New York. Argia 18:11-12.

Ware, J., E. Pilgrim, M.L. May, T. Donnelly, and K. Tennessen. 2017. Phylogenetic relationships of North American Gomphidae and their close relatives. Systematic Entomology 42:347-358.

White, E. L., J. D. Corser, and M. D. Schlesinger. 2010. The New York dragonfly and damselfly survey 2005-2009: Distribution and status of the Odonates of New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, New York.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Jeffrey D. Corser

Information for this guide was last updated on: March 30, 2017

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Arigomphus cornutus. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/horned-clubtail/. Accessed May 26, 2024.