Pacific Spiketail is a huge, striking,
fearless dragonfly. It is
an agile predator of flying insects, including other dragonflies, and
a fearsome face close up (above). But when perched it is a gorgeous
(below). The black-and-yellow dragon is so impressive that it has been
known by various evocative colloquial names, including "biddy" and
adder." In England, members of this family are called "goldenrings."
Spiketail is the only member of this family (Cordulegastridae) in
head detail) 28 Sep 2006
photo (above, full body; male) 9 Sep
2006 Wagon Caves,
photo (below; female) 3 Sep 2006
Soberanes Creek, Garrapata
Both sexes are similar in size (3+ inches long) and color pattern but
females (right) can be recognized by their impressive ovipositor at the
tip of the abdomen. It looks like a spike, but is actually an enlarged
vulvar lamina from the bottom side of the 8th abdominal segment.
rarely visit water except to breed and oviposit. The ovipositor is used
to deposit her eggs. This is "accomplished alone by hovering vertically
over shallow water and repeatedly plunging the ovipositor into the
or sandy substrate;" (Manolis 2003). This is an exceptional sight to
Manolis (2003) says that Pacific Spiketails are
"nearly always seen
in flight." This has certainly been my experience — they are constantly
on the move, and thus quite difficult to watch. You know something
just went by... but it happened so fast! The photos of individuals on
page were lucky, serendipitous events. The story of a couple of these
Creek and at Wagon
Caves, are told elsewhere on this web site.
Males patrol long stretches along streams, or
even along back roads,
looking for females. Although they attract aggressively toward other
they are not thought to delimit or defend specific territories (Vick
The male below was patrolling a dirt road in northeastern Monterey
however, in MTY, most are found along shaded streams. Even then, they
not commonly seen except at just the right time and place;" Dunkle
male) 28 Sep 2006 along upper
Old Stage Road
photo (below; male) 9 Sep 2006 Wagon
Caves, The Indians
|On the rare occasions when a Pacific Spiketail is
perched, it can still
be difficult to spot because in hangs low from multicolored leaves,
or bushes, and its colorful pattern blends remarkably well. When it is
spotted, it might look like a displaced child's toy to the non-odonite
|In European species, individual spiketails
(goldenrings) may live 3-5
years. Of course much of this is in a nymph stage underwater, but this
is still much longer than most other odes. Presumably the adults may be
active for several months.
map (right) shows the approximate locations of MTY records to date.
11 of these records are specimens from Hastings NHR and vicinity in
Carmel Valley, and another is a specimen of a larvae collected 29 Mar
in Piney Creek, 14 miles west of Greenfield (#UC Sacramento). The other
currently 'known' locations are Soberanes Creek in Garrapata State
tributaries of the north fork of the San Antonio River; and adjacent to
Mud Creek, along Old Stage Road, east of Salinas.
Records of flying spiketails range between 3
June-28 Sep. Elsewhere
in California flight dates are mid-May to early October (Manolis 2003).
In MTY it is mostly seen between July and September.
- Dunkle, S.W. 2000. Dragonflies through Binoculars: a
Field Guide to the
Dragonflies of North America. Oxford Univ. Press, New York.
- Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of
California. Univ. of Calif.
- Vick, G.S. 2001. Family Cordulegastridae
(Goldenrings) in Dragonflies
of the World (J. Silsby, ed.). Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.
Major identification web sites with much information on California
For sites with excellent photos to compare for identification or to
Many of these sites have links to other useful pages. Kathy Biggs's
is particularly useful in her selection of links.
All photos © Don Roberson 2007
Page created 15-18 Feb 2007