New York Natural Heritage Program
Tiger Spiketail
Cordulegaster erronea Hagen in Selys, 1878

Identifying Characteristics [-]
Female dragonflies in the Spiketail family have an elongated ovipositor (a modified appendage used to pierce a substrate and lay eggs) that extends beyond the tip of their abdomen, giving them a spiked-tail appearance (Needham et al. 2000, Nikula et al. 2003). Tiger Spiketails are large (2.9 inches), blackish-brown dragonflies with yellow bands on their abdomens. They have short legs and their thorax has two wide, yellow lateral (side) stripes. They have pale, metallic green eyes and, like other spiketails, their eyes meet at one point on top of their heads. This species may be distinguished from other spiketails by its black coloration on the rear of the head behind the eyes. This area is mainly yellow on other species.

Behavior [-]
Spiketail larvae are aquatic and burrow tail first into the substrate of waters where they are found. They then cover themselves with muck and wait for prey to happen by (Mead 2003). Adults are terrestrial and perch at an oblique (about a 45 degree) angle on vegetation on the edges of their water habitats and hunt in fields and forest clearings (Nikula et al. 2003). Females oviposit (lay eggs) by hovering vertically over shallow water and plunging the tip of their abdomen into the mud in a sewing-machine like movement (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et at. 2003).

Diet [-]
Tiger Spiketail larvae feed on smaller aquatic invertebrates and adults feed on insects which they capture in flight.
Tiger Spiketail Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
Adults are active from early June to early September range-wide (Dunkle 2000, Needham et al. 2000); however, have been observed active from mid-July through mid-August in NJ (Barlow, 1995). A similar activity period is expected in New York State. The best time of day to look for adult males is from late in the day until dusk, and their peak activity is around 6 P.M. Larvae may be found in appropriate aquatic habitats year-round.
Present Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find Tiger Spiketail present (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua)
    The abdominal pattern on the Arrowhead Spiketail is distinct, with yellow dorsal (top) spots on segments 1-9 (those on segments 4-8 arrowhead-shaped) on a black abdomen (Nikula et al. 2003).
  • Twin-Spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster maculata)
    The twin-spotted spiketail has distinctive rounded yellow abdominal markings on segments 3-8 (Nikula et al. 2003).
  • Delta-Spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster diastatops)
    The abdominal pattern on the Delta-spotted Spiketail is distinct, with yellow lateral (side) spots on segments 1-9 (those on segments 3-8 dagger-shaped) on a black abdomen (Nikula et al. 2003).