Midland Clubtail

Gomphurus fraternus (Say, 1839)

Gomphus fraternus
Nick Donnelly

Insecta (Insects)
Gomphidae (Clubtails)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Vulnerable in New York - Vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors (but not currently imperiled); typically 21 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The Midland Clubtail has strong flight capabilities, which allow it to capture other dragonflies such as the Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) and the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) as prey (Mead 2003).

State Ranking Justification

The Midland Clubtail is known to occur in two locations in New York State, with no population estimates determined. Further survey efforts may result in the identification of additional populations or range expansions, and may enable population size estimations.

Short-term Trends

No estimation of population size for this species has been made based on observations from the late 1990s in Orange and Oneida counties (New York Natural Heritage 2007). General reports of observations made prior to this include locations in three additional counties, but information prior to the late 1990s is limited (Donnelly 2004). Therefore, any new location information on the Midland Clubtail in New York may reflect heightened interest in surveying for this species rather than a population increase or a range expansion (Holst 2005).

Long-term Trends

Recent observations have been noted in Orange and Oneida counties in the late 1990s. Long-term information regarding population size is not available prior to the late 1990s (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Since observations are fairly recent, and the full extent and size of the populations have not been determined, long-term trends are unclear.

Conservation and Management


Any activity which might lead to water contamination or the alteration of natural hydrology could impact Midland Clubtail populations (Holst 2005). Such threats might include roadway and agricultural run-off, industrial pollution, the building of dams, recreational boating, and development near their habitats (Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program 2003, Holst 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any efforts to reduce roadway and agricultural run-off, industrial pollution, flow manipulation, development of upland stream borders, and contamination of fast-flowing streams should be considered when managing for this species (Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program 2003, Holst 2005).

Research Needs

Further research is needed to define the distribution and population size of the Midland Clubtail. In addition, research is required to understand the habitat requirements and threats to this species, and to create appropriate management guidelines for its persistence in known locations (Holst 2005).



The Midland Clubtail inhabits medium to large, moderate to rapid-flowing rivers and streams with sandy and muddy substrate. They are also found in and around large lakes with emergent vegetation (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2003). Larvae are aquatic and found in the water during this lifestage, whereas adults are terrestrial and are found in habitats surrounding streams and lakes.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Confined river* (guide)
    The aquatic community of relatively large, fast flowing sections of streams with a moderate to gentle gradient.
  • Unconfined river (guide)
    The aquatic community of large, quiet, base level sections of streams with a very low gradient.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

The Midland Clubtail is confirmed in locations from five counties in the western and southern portion of the state (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). The full extent of the population has not been determined.

Global Distribution

The Midland Clubtail is an uncommon species distributed across the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada (Nikula et al. 2003). It has a total known range from Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec as well as Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennesee (Abbott 2007).

Best Places to See

  • Wallkill River (Orange County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

As their name suggests, Clubtails have an enlarged tip on the end of their abdomens, giving them a club-like appearance. The Midland Clubtail belongs to the subgenus Gomphurus, which may be characterized by having the broadest clubs in the Clubtail family and their overall large size. The Midland Clubtail has a dark brown thorax with greenish yellow dorsal (top) stripes that form a rear-ward facing "U" pattern. They have a slender, blackish abdomen with a widened "club" at the end with yellow dorsal stripes on abdominal segments 3-7 and a yellow triangular spot on segment 8. There is often (not always) a little dorsal spot on segment 9 as well, but segment 10 is black dorsally. Also, there are yellow patches on the sides of the club portion of the abdomen (segments 8 and 9). Midland Clubtails are 1.9-2.2 inches in length. They have blue-green eyes and, as with all Gomphids, their eyes are separated dorsally. Male terminal appendages and female subgenital plates are distinctive from other Gomphus species when examined under magnification. Female Midland Clubtails have thicker abdomens than males, with a slightly narrower club. Both sexes have a yellow face and black legs; however, the hind thighs of the females often have a pale lateral (side) stripe.


Gomphid larvae spend much of their time burrowing into the substrate of streams and rivers where they are found. Adults are found perching on emergent rocks in rivers or on the banks or leaves at river edges (Nikula et al. 2003). Adult males maintain rapid and prolonged flights to patrol for females and often hover over open water (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2003). Adult females oviposit (lay eggs) by washing their abdomens in rapids or turbulent areas of rivers and lakes (Mead 2003).


Midland Clubtail larvae feed on smaller aquatic invertebrates and adults feed on insects which they capture in flight.

Best Time to See

Adults are active from late May into mid-July (Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program 2003). Larvae may be found in appropriate habitats year-round.

  • Present
  • Reproducing

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

Similar Species

  • Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus)
    The Cobra Clubtail does not have a dorsal spot on abdominal segment 8, whereas this is present on the Midland Clubtail. In addition, the Cobra Clubtail has dark streaks on its face where no streaks are present on the face of the Midland Clubtail (Nikula et al. 2003).
  • Skillet Clubtail (Gomphurus ventricosus) (guide)
    The Skillet Clubtail does not have a dorsal spot on abdominal segment 8, whereas this is present on the Midland Clubtail. In addition, the Skillet Clubtail has much larger lateral (side) spots on abdominal segments 8 and 9 (Nikula et al. 2003).

Midland Clubtail Images


Midland Clubtail
Gomphurus fraternus (Say, 1839)

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


  • Gomphus fraternus (Say, 1839)

Additional Resources


Abbott, J.C. 2007. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the odonata of North America. Austin, Texas. Available at http://odonatacentral.com (accessed February 28, 2007).

Donnelly, T. W. 1992. The odonata of New York State. Bulletin of American Odonatology. 1(1):1-27.

Donnelly, T.W. 1999. The Dragonflies and Damselflies of New York. Prepared for the 1999 International Congress of Odonatology and 1st Symposium of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association. July 11-16, 1999. Colgate University, Hamilton, New York: 39 pp.

Donnelly, T.W. 2004. The Odonata of New York State. Unpublished data. Binghamton, NY.

Dunkle, S.W. 2000. Dragonflies Through Binoculars. A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America. Oxford University Press: New York, New York. 266 pp.

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

Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program. 2003. Midland clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus fraternus). Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. Available http://www.state.ma.us/dfwele/dfw/nhesp (accessed February 28, 2007).

NatureServe. 2007. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 6.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Accessed: January 11, 2007).

Needham, J.G., M.J. Westfall, Jr., and M.L. May. 2000. Dragonflies of North America. Revised edition. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, Florida. 939 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2007. Biotics Database. Albany, NY.

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

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2005. Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy Planning Database. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

Nikula, B., J.L. Loose, and M.R. Burne. 2003. A field guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Massachusetts. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Westborough, MA. 197 pp.

Walker, E.M. 1958. The odonata of Canada and Alaska. Vol 2. The Anisoptera-four families. Univ. Toronto Press 318 pp.

Ware, J.L., E. Pilgrim, M.L. May, T.W. Donnelly, and K. Tennessen. 2016. Phylogenetic relationships of North American Gomphidae and their close relatives. Systematic Entomology 2016:1-10.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: April 5, 2007

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Gomphurus fraternus. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/midland-clubtail/. Accessed July 19, 2024.