Sussex Dragonfly Group

Common Clubtail (Common Club-tail)
Gomphus vulgatissimus (Linnaeus, 1758)
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Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Gomphidae

Common Clubtail
(Common Club-tail)
Gomphus vulgatissimus

Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Gomphidae

This is a very special dragonfly for Sussex, with a nationally important population on the River Arun. It is a medium-sized hawker, with a distinctive club shaped ‘tail’. Both sexes are black with contrasting yellow and green markings.

Gomphus vulgatissimus
1 / 14
teneral female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
2 / 14
teneral female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
3 / 14
teneral female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
4 / 14
teneral male and exuvia
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
5 / 14
female with egg sac
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
6 / 14
male
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
7 / 14
emerging
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
8 / 14
female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
9 / 14
female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
10 / 14
male
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
11 / 14
male
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
12 / 14
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Gomphus vulgatissimus
13 / 14
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Gomphus vulgatissimus
14 / 14
mating
Photo: David Sadler

More images

National status
Very localised on rivers in England and Wales including the Thames, Arun, Dee, Severn, Wye and Teifi.

Status in Sussex
Confined to the River Arun in West Sussex though with occasional records from elsewhere, even on downland at the start of the flight season. Listed in the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.

Distribution at 1km scale

Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution (all)
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution pre 1980
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 1980 - 1989
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 1990 - 1999
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 2000 - 2009
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 2010 - 2019
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 2010 on

Historical records
Lucas and Bloomfield (1905) and some later authors reported single specimens taken by Unwin on the Lewes Downs in 1846 and in Love Lane, Lewes in 1851. Although Dannreuther (1939) described them as “rare wanderers”, there is nonetheless the possibility that this species once occurred on the Ouse. It was also reported on the Cuckmere river in the 1930s (Chelmick 1979), but was not found there during the 1965-1978 survey (Chelmick 1979). It was first recorded at its present stronghold on the Arun in 1912 (Chelmick 1979). It would appear to be restricted to limited stretches of the river as the current distribution pattern now is very similar to that shown by Chelmick (1979).

Flight times
Mid May - early July.

Phenology (adult)

Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology (all)
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology pre 1980
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 1980 - 1989
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 1990 - 1999
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 2000 - 2009
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 2010 - 2019
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 2010 on
Gomphus vulgatissimus habitat
1 / 1
Common Clubtail habitat on the Western Rother
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Moderate to slow-flowing rivers with a muddy or silty bottom; often uses mid-stream perches.

Conservation
Why this species is now restricted in Sussex to the River Arun is not known. Its vulnerability was highlighted in early 2003 when an agricultural pesticide polluted the river near Billingshurst and wiped out the dragonfly fauna and other aquatic life.

Similar species
Given its distinctive shape and very restricted distribution in Sussex, this species should not present any identification difficulties.

This is a very special dragonfly for Sussex, with a nationally important population on the River Arun. It is a medium-sized hawker, with a distinctive club shaped ‘tail’. Both sexes are black with contrasting yellow and green markings.

Gomphus vulgatissimus
1 / 14
teneral female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
2 / 14
teneral female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
3 / 14
teneral female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
4 / 14
teneral male and exuvia
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
5 / 14
female with egg sac
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
6 / 14
male
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
7 / 14
emerging
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
8 / 14
female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
9 / 14
female
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
10 / 14
male
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
11 / 14
male
Photo: David Sadler
Gomphus vulgatissimus
12 / 14
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Gomphus vulgatissimus
13 / 14
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Gomphus vulgatissimus
14 / 14
mating
Photo: David Sadler

National status
Very localised on rivers in England and Wales including the Thames, Arun, Dee, Severn, Wye and Teifi.

Status in Sussex
Confined to the River Arun in West Sussex though with occasional records from elsewhere, even on downland at the start of the flight season. Listed in the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.

Distribution at 1km scale

Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution (all)
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution bre 1980
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 1980 - 1989
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 1990 - 1999
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 2000 - 2009
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 2010 - 2019
Gomphus vulgatissimus distribution 2020 on

Historical records
Lucas and Bloomfield (1905) and some later authors reported single specimens taken by Unwin on the Lewes Downs in 1846 and in Love Lane, Lewes in 1851. Although Dannreuther (1939) described them as “rare wanderers”, there is nonetheless the possibility that this species once occurred on the Ouse. It was also reported on the Cuckmere river in the 1930s (Chelmick 1979), but was not found there during the 1965-1978 survey (Chelmick 1979). It was first recorded at its present stronghold on the Arun in 1912 (Chelmick 1979). It would appear to be restricted to limited stretches of the river as the current distribution pattern now is very similar to that shown by Chelmick (1979).

Flight times
Mid May - early July.

Phenology (adult)

Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology (all)
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology pre 1980
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 1980 - 1989
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 1990 - 1999
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 2000 - 2009
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 2010 - 2019
Gomphus vulgatissimus phenology 2020 on
Gomphus vulgatissimus habitat
1 / 1
Common Clubtail habitat on the Western Rother
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Moderate to slow-flowing rivers with a muddy or silty bottom; often uses mid-stream perches.

Conservation
Why this species is now restricted in Sussex to the River Arun is not known. Its vulnerability was highlighted in early 2003 when an agricultural pesticide polluted the river near Billingshurst and wiped out the dragonfly fauna and other aquatic life.

Similar species
Given its distinctive shape and very restricted distribution in Sussex, this species should not present any identification difficulties.