Nannothemis bella - Uhler, 1857
Elfin Skimmer
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Nannothemis bella (Uhler, 1857) (TSN 101933)
French Common Names: nannothème d'elfe
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.116690
Element Code: IIODO50010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Dragonflies and Damselflies
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Odonata Libellulidae Nannothemis
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Paulson, D.R. and S.W. Dunkle. 1999. A Checklist of North American Odonata. Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound Occasional Paper, 56: 86 pp. Available:
Concept Reference Code: A99PAU01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Nannothemis bella
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 03Aug2017
Global Status Last Changed: 03Aug2017
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Although rare in parts of its range this very distinctive little dragonfly is common in southern New Jersey (probably should be reranked S4) and has numerous occurrences in at least Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine and much of eastern New England into New York. there are probably over 300 occurrences but fewer are actually documented. A bit too specialized in terms of habitat requirements to seriously consider G5 now.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (01Jun1990)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4N5 (03Aug2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNR), Connecticut (S2S3), Delaware (S1), Florida (S1S2), Georgia (S3), Illinois (S3), Indiana (S1S2), Kentucky (S1), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (S4), Maryland (S1), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNR), Minnesota (SNR), Mississippi (S1), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (SNR), New York (S3), North Carolina (S3S4), Ohio (S1), Pennsylvania (S1), Rhode Island (S3), South Carolina (SNR), Vermont (S3), Virginia (S1), Wisconsin (S3)
Canada New Brunswick (S4), Nova Scotia (S3), Ontario (S4), Quebec (S3)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)

Area of Occupancy: 26-2,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Very possibly 100 occurrences in New Jersey and perhaps several in other subnations such as Ontario, Maine, Quebec, although at present probably <300 actually documented.

In Alabama this species is rare and only known from one pond in Russell County (Tennessen et al., 1995). In Pennsylvania, prior to a Luzerne County discovery in 2003 and a Carbon County discovery in 2004, no contemporary records of this species have been documented (PA Natural Heritage Program). In Ohio, it has only been reported from four localities (Silver Lake in Miami County; a marl bog at Kennard, and Cedar Bog, both in Champagne County; and Singer Lake in Summit County). The site of the Kennard bog is now drained and farmed, and it has not been seen at Silver Lake since 1961. Thus the only extant populations in Ohio are at Singer Lake and Cedar Bog (Glotzhober and McShaffrey, 2002). In Maine this species occurs in the following counties: Aroostook, Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Waldo, Washington, and York (MDIFW, 2008). IN New Jersey, it is abundant throughout the Coastal Plain and has been sporadically found at a few sites in the Highlands and Ridge and Valley (Barlow et al., 2009).

Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Occurrences typically seem to be dozens to occasionally a couple hundred by casual observation.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many (41-125)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Undoubtedly threatened in some places but not close to range-wide. Also this species is a very good colonizer of very unnatural acid sphagnum habitats in New Jersey and probably more widely so disturbance is not necessarily detrimental.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Certainly fairly stable in some places including New Jersey but considerable uncertainty.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Not retricted to pristine natural habitats but probably does need clean acid water generally more or less boggy.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles))  

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT, WI
Canada NB, NS, ON, QC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
DE Kent (10001), Sussex (10005)
FL Jackson (12063), Jefferson (12065), Okaloosa (12091)
IL Cook (17031), Kane (17089), Mchenry (17111)*
IN La Porte (18091), Lagrange (18087)
KY Breckinridge (21027)*, Bullitt (21029)*, Carter (21043)*, Edmonson (21061), Fleming (21069)*, Grayson (21085)*, Greenup (21089)*, Hardin (21093)*, Hart (21099)*, Jefferson (21111)*, Larue (21123)*, Laurel (21125)*, Lewis (21135)*, Mason (21161)*, McCreary (21147)*, Meade (21163)*, Nelson (21179)*, Pulaski (21199)*, Rowan (21205)*, Wayne (21231)*, Whitley (21235)*
MD Anne Arundel (24003), Caroline (24011), Frederick (24021), Prince Georges (24033)
MS Forrest (28035), George (28039), Harrison (28047), Jackson (28059), Pearl River (28109), Perry (28111), Stone (28131)
OH Champaign (39021), Summit (39153)
PA Carbon (42025), Lackawanna (42069), Lehigh (42077)*, Luzerne (42079), Monroe (42089)*, Northampton (42095)*, Pike (42103), Schuylkill (42107)*
RI Providence (44007), Washington (44009)
VA Caroline (51033)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Blackstone (01090003)+, Pawcatuck-Wood (01090005)+
02 Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Lehigh (02040106)+, Schuylkill (02040203)+*, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+, Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+, Gunpowder-Patapsco (02060003)+, Patuxent (02060006)+, Monocacy (02070009)+, Mattaponi (02080105)+, Western Lower Delmarva (02080109)+
03 Aucilla (03110103)+, Chipola (03130012)+, St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays (03140101)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Pascagoula (03170006)+*, Black (03170007)+, Mississippi Coastal (03170009)+
04 Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, St. Joseph (04050001)+
05 Tuscarawas (05040001)+, Upper Great Miami (05080001)+, Little Scioto-Tygarts (05090103)+*, Ohio Brush-Whiteoak (05090201)+*, Licking (05100101)+*, Upper Green (05110001)+, Rough (05110004)+*, Upper Cumberland (05130101)+*, Upper Cumberland-Lake Cumberland (05130103)+*, South Fork Cumberland (05130104)+*, Salt (05140102)+*, Rolling Fork (05140103)+*, Blue-Sinking (05140104)+*
07 Upper Fox (07120006)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: This is a Species of Concern in Pennsylvania.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Pond-Breeding Odonates

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on some evidence of historical or current presence of single or multiple specimens ideally with evidence of on-site breeding (teneral adults, mating pairs, territorial males, ovipositing females, larvae, or exuviae) at a given location with potential breeding habitat. Although oviposition may not necessarily yield progeny that survive to adulthood (Fincke, 1992) and movements resembling oviposition may not necessarily result in egg deposition (Okazawa and Ubukata, 1978; Martens, 1992; 1994), presence of on-site oviposition is here accepted as an indicator of a minimum element occurrence because the time and effort involved in determining success of emergence is beyond the scope of the general survey. As adults of some species might disperse moderate distances (see below), only sites with available larval habitat can be considered appropriate for a minimum occurrence. Single, non-breeding adults captured away from potential suitable breeding habitat should not be treated as element occurrences. Evidence is derived from reliable published observation or collection data; unpublished, though documented (i.e. government or agency reports, web sites, etc.) observation or collection data; or museum specimen information. A photograph may be accepted as documentation of an element occurrence for adults only (nymphs and subimagos are too difficult to identify in this manner) provided that the photograph shows diagnostic features that clearly delineate the species from other species with similar features. Sight records, though valuable, should not be accepted as the basis for new element occurrences. Instead, such records should be utilized to further study an area to verify the element occurrence in that area.
Separation Barriers: Within catchments there are likely no significant barriers to movement of sexually mature adults between microhabitats, with even extensive sections of inappropriate waterway or major obstructions to flow being readily traversed by adults within the flight season.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 3 km
Separation Justification: Adults odonates are known to wander, some over great distances (not so for damselflies). Mass migration over great distances is not herein considered when drafting separation distances as such behavior is limited to few species (e.g. Anax junius, Libellula quadrimaculata, other Libellula spp., Sympetrum spp.), occurs unpredictably and infrequently (10 year cycles for L. quadrimaculata), are unidirectional or intergenerational (Freeland et al., 2003), or occurs under unusual circumstances such as irritation by trematode parasites (Dumont and Hinnekint, 1973) or major weather events (Moskowitz et al., 2001; Russell et al., 1998).

Corbet (1999) estimated average distance traveled for a commuting flight (between reproductive and foraging sites) to be less than 200 m but sometimes greater than one km. Pond-breeding odonates may wander but generally stay within a few km of their emergence pond. At the species level, overall range (and dispsersal capability) tends to be larger than for lotic species possibly in response to greater instability of lentic versus lotic habitat over time (Hof et al., 2006). Distribution is often limited in response to presence or absence of predators (also dependent on habitat permanence) (McPeek, 1989; Stoks and McPeek, 2003a; 2003b). At night and during inclement weather, adult Procordulia grayi roosted at least one km away from the reproductive site (Rowe, 1987). Conrad et al. (1999) listed maximum dispersal distance of Sympetrum sanguieneum at 1.2 km but at 800 m or less with high dispersal rate between ponds for other species (Ischnura elegans, Coenagrion puella, C. pulchellum, Lestes sponsa, Enallagma cyathigerum, and Pyrrhosoma nymphalis). Michiels and Dhondt (1991) cited dispersal distance of Sympetrum donae in Belgium at greater than 1.75 km and most mature adults immigrated away from the emergence site. Moore (1986) cited several species of Enallagma as dispersing 2.7 km and found no colonization of artificial acid water ponds in eastern England constructed at least 5 km from colonized natural ponds in 12 consecutive years (single introduced population of Ceriagrion tenellum not surviving past the second generation). Purse et al. (2003) found mature adults of the rare European damselfly, Coenagrion mercuriale, had a low rate of movement within continuous habitat (< 25 m), low emigration rates (1.3 to 11.4%), and low colonization distances (max. 1 km), comparable to other similarly sized coenagrionids.

Even within genera, however, differences in dispersal patterns may exist. McPeek (1989) found the mechanisms causing Enallagma movements between Michigan lakes were due to propensity to leave natal lakes, not active selection of different habitats (e.g. lakes with fish, without fish, or winterkill lakes with fish part-year). With the exception of winterkill lake species (Enallagma ebrium), species in lakes with fish (E. geminatum, E. hageni) and fishless lake species (E. boreale, E. cyathigerum), moved little or not at all away from natal lakes; even those less than 10 m apart. Natural selection may favor remaining at natal lakes where ecological conditions are constant and dispersal costs (i.e. mortality) high (McPeek, 1989). Uncharacteristic movement of E. ebrium away from natal lakes is explained by recolonization of lakes in which populations have been reduced or eliminated and reproducing when winterkill of fish populations changes a lake to the fishless condition.

Considering the above tendency for pond breeding odonates to remain at or near (order of hundreds of meters) natal emergence sites, separation distance has been set at 3 km.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: The few studies determining area of adult foraging habitat surrounding breeding sites have indicated a range of 30 meters to 300 meters [see Briggs (1993) for Enallagma laterale; Corbet (1999) for Nesciothemis nigeriensis and Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis; Beukeman (2002) for Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis; and Samways and Steytler (1996) for Chorolestes tessalatus]. As a result, an element occurrence should include the breeding site and surrounding pond or upland habitat extending 500 m in a radius from the breeding site.
Date: 12Feb2007
Author: Cordeiro, J.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 28Nov2006
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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  • Barlow, A.E., D.M. Golden, and J. Bangma. 2009. Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Jersey. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife: Flemington, New Jersey. 285 pp.

  • Blust, M., and B. Pfeiffer. 2015. The Odonata of Vermont. Bulletin of American Odonatology 11(3?4):69-119.

  • Deyrup, M., and R. Franz. 1994. Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida, Volume IV: Invertebrates. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. 798 pp.

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

  • Glotzhober, R.C. and D. McShaffrey (eds.). 2002. The dragonflies and damselflies of Ohio. Ohio Biological Survey Bulletin, New Series 14(2):1-364.

  • Hilder, B.E. and P.W. Colgan. 1985. Territorial behaviour of male Nannothemis bella (Uhler) (Anisoptera: Libellulidae). Can. J. Zool. 63: 1010-1016.

  • Hunt, P.D. 2012. The New Hampshire Dragonfly Survey: A Final Report. Report to the NH Fish and Game Department. Audubon Society of NH, Concord. 54 pp.

  • Krotzer, R.S, J.T. Bried, M.J. Krotzer. 2008. The Odonata of Mississippi. Bulletin of American Odonatology 10(4):65-91.

  • LeGrand, H., Petranka, J., M.A. Shields, and T.E. Howard, Jr. 2017. The Dragonflies and Damselflies of North Carolina, Eighth Approximation, Version 8.1. N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. Online. Available:

  • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). 2008. January 16-last update. Maine Damselfly and Dragonfly Survey. Online. Available:

  • May, Michael L. 1992-06-05. "New Jersey Specimen Records" for Odonata.

  • May, Michael L. and Frank L. Carle. 1996-10-15. An annotated list of the Odonata of New Jersey. With an appendix on nomenclature in the Genus Gomphus. Bulletin of American Odonatology Vol. 4, No. 1 p. 1-35.

  • Mead, K. 2003. Dragonflies of the North Woods. Kollath-Stensaas Publishing, Duluth, Minnesota. 203 pp.

  • Natural Resources Commission. 2014. Roster of Indiana Animals, Insects, and Plants That Are Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened or Rare. Information Bulletin #2 (Sixth Amendment. 20pp.

  • Needham, J.G., and M.J. Westfall, Jr. 1954. A manual of the dragonflies of North America (Anisoptera). Univ. California Press, Berkeley, CA. 615pp.

  • New York Natural Heritage Program. 2014. Database of odonate records by county for northeastern U.S. states. Data contributors available:

  • Paulson, D.R. and S.W. Dunkle. 1999. A Checklist of North American Odonata. Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound Occasional Paper, 56: 86 pp. Available:

  • Paulson, D.R., and S.W. Dunkle. 2009. A checklist of North American Odonata including English name, etymology, type locality, and distribution. Originally published as Occasional Paper No. 56, Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound, June 1999; completely revised March 2009. Online. Available:

  • Shuey, John and David Banks. 1995. Odonata Species Collected 1995. List. 7 pp.

  • Soltesz, Ken 1991. A Survey of the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Cape May County, New Jersey. Cape May Bird Observatory. NJAS P.O.Box 3,707 E.Lake Dr., Cape May Point, NJ 08212.

  • Soltesz, Ken. 1992. Proposed Heritage ranks for New York State odonata. Unpublished report for New York Natural Heritage Program. 37 pp.

  • Soltesz, Ken. 1999. Handwritten comments/response to Rick Dutko, NJ Natural Heritage Program, request to review proposed Odonata ranks.

  • Swinford, Thomas O. 1997. Checklist of Status of Indiana Odonata. List. 7 pp.

  • Swinford, Thomas O. 2015. Checklist and Status of Indiana Odonata. 8 pp.

  • Swinford, Tom. 1995. Checklist and Status of Indiana Odonata. List. 7 pp.

  • Tennessen, K. J., J. D. Harper, and R. S. Krotzer. 1995. The distribution of Odonata in Alabama. Bulletin of American Odanotology 3(3):49-74.

  • White, E.L., P.D Hunt, M.D. Schlesinger, J.D. Corser, and P.G. deMaynadier. 2015. Prioritizing Odonata for conservation action in the northeastern USA. Freshwater Science 34(3):1079-1093.

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