Ben here with the Monday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Ben here with the Monday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Ben here with the Monday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

This is Tachopteryx thoreyi, commonly known as the gray petaltail, and it's probably the most unusual dragonfly in Virginia!

What makes the gray petaltail so unusual? For one, it's our most primitive dragonfly and it's the only surviving member of its genus. These dragonflies are virtually identical to the petaltails that were buzzing among the dinosaurs during the Jurassic period!

Two, these dragonflies have a lifestyle quite unlike any other dragonfly species in Virginia. We generally associate dragonflies with water. The adults tend to be found near ponds, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water, while the nymphs are fully aquatic. Not so for the gray petaltail! The nymphs live in or near seeps in the woods, which are areas where water seeps up through the earth, and can often be found in damp leaf litter on the forest floor! The adults, meanwhile, are far more likely to be found out in the middle of the woods rather than near a body of water. In fact, the adults can often be found perched on trees, where their gray coloration and transparent wings allow them to blend in almost perfectly.

Gray petaltails can be found across eastern North America, and in southwest Virginia, the adults are found from April through July. There seems to be some debate about just how rare these dragonflies are; some sources say they're fairly rare in large parts of their range. I've seen several at my property and at nearby Fairy Stone State Park, so be sure to check sunny tree trunks if you're out in the woods; you might just spot one!

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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