Wild Fact #801 – The Dragon’s of the Insect World – Dragonfly

Wild Fact #801 – The Dragon’s of the Insect World – Dragonfly

I have been waiting for quite some time to complete a post on the Dragonfly and what could be a better time then to close out Insect Week here at Wild Facts? I actually saw my first Dragonfly of the year on my holidays and I love seeing them since it usually means a decline in the population of black flies and mosquitoes. So sit back and let’s learn about one of my favourite insects.

As I briefly mentioned the dragonfly is a large predatory insect that will feed on mosquitoes, bees, flies and other small insects. Even the larvae stage (also known as a “nymph”) of the dragonfly feeds on small aquatic insects and eggs.  The adult dragonfly is absolutely harmless to humans, however, in the larvae form they will produce a nasty bite if you give them the opportunity.  I personally think that the larvae form is the most interesting aspect of the dragonfly and I will explain why below.  What are you still doing reading this paragraph? The interesting stuff is in the next paragraph… sheesh!

The dragonfly nymph lives exclusively in the water and some species may  live in this form for up to five years.  Let’s see, at five years, that would put them in Senior Kindergarten. Just like graduating kindergarten and going to grade one this nymph will decide to graduate and turn into the adult form.  At this time they will leave the water by crawling on some emergent vegetation.  This exposure to the fresh air actually starts their breathing process. Soon enough their body will begin to crack open and the adult dragonfly will emerge out of this body.  I have had the privilege of witnessing this process and I have to tell you, it is pretty impressive.  Everyone makes a big fuss about the beauty of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly but I think the dragonfly is far better.  I have included a picture of the larvae form below.  Just think about the whole process.  When it is time the dragonfly will actually emerge leaving this aquatic body behind.  Pretty cool eh?

Dragonfly Fast Fact – Fossils of dragonflies exist that are over 200 million years old.  These dragonfly fossils have a wingspan of 2 feet.  This makes me wonder how big the mosquitoes and black flies were back then! Today the largest dragonflies live in Costa Rica but they only have a wingspan of 7 and a half inches.

The skin of a Dragonfly nymp. The Dragonfly emerged from that hole just behind the head.

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Agapelife May 28, 2010

    One of my favorites, too, after the butterfly, praying mantis and grasshopper. In Singapore, the dragonflies had brighter colored wings. I wonder if they were the inspiration for all the stories on fairies?

    • Avatar
      Nathan May 31, 2010

      You and I like the same insects, Agapelife! Once upon a time, I remember hearing something about dragonflies being the inspiration for fairies but I don’t know how much truth there is to that.

  2. Avatar
    Mom & Dad June 01, 2010

    I meant to tell you Dad and I were watching the finishing touches of the dragon fly emerging from his nymp stage. We have tons of the shells around the decks and dock.

    • Avatar
      Nathan June 01, 2010

      That is awesome. You guys are lucky that you have the opportunity to see them emerging every spring.

  3. Avatar
    Hailey January 05, 2011

    Wow I have always thought that dragonflies don’t bite but i guess i’m wrong. Dragonflies have always been my favorite insect. Could a dragonfly still survive in the water if it fell in a pool or a lake?

    • Avatar
      Nathan January 05, 2011

      The adult version of the Dragonfly is still pretty harmless but you do need to watch out about the larval stage. If an adult dragonfly falls into a pool or a lake then their chances of survival are probably not very high. Don’t get me wrong, they may be able to get out and dry off their wings so they can fly but it may be difficult for them to actually get out. The other concern is if they do get out they are susceptible to predators while they wait for their wings to dry off.

      Thanks for the great question.

  4. Avatar
    ashley April 26, 2011

    wow so cool

  5. Avatar
    Rich May 30, 2011

    Hi Nathan,
    That picture is the same kind of shell that i see too. My brother owns an A-frame house with a screened front porch. The Nymph’s like to crawl inside the front porch and when they hatch crawl onto the screen. They literally can cling to anything in the nymph stage. Since they cannot get out of the enclosed front porch I let them crawl onto my hand and then walk with them outside and place them on the wall. There they wait until wings are dried and then fly away. My 5 yr. old daughter witnessed two of them yesterday. She asked if they bite and i simply stated anything that has a mouth can bite if provoked. So far I have never been bitten and I have held hundreds. They are awesome. Now if i can only get rid of the bats that are inside his roof. Yikes.

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