Do Not Fear the Amazing Dragonfly
You may have seen one in your backyard, or by a pond or lake. Large flying insects with the aerobatics of a helicopter, stopping in midair, and just as suddenly, flying off in any direction. You may have been frightened by their size and big dome like eyes. Even their name is intimidating, Here are some facts to help you understand the very misunderstood dragonfly and show you that they are not to be feared but admired and even praised.
Dragonflies have been around for 300 million years. One fossil of a dragonfly had a wingspan of 2 ½ feet. The largest today exists in Costa Rica. While measuring 7 ½ inches it is dwarfed in comparison to its prehistoric cousin.
Dragonflies spend the first year or two as nymphs, living in the water and devouring mosquito larvae. Once they emerge they become airborne and feed in midair on adult mosquitoes. This makes them a valuable part of the eco system. They only live for a month or so as adults, but during this short life, each individual devours thousands of mosquitoes..
Dragonflies have two pairs of wings that, unlike other insects, are operated independently. One pair can be moving up while the other is moving down. Their wings only beat at 30 beats per second compared to bee’s wings that beat at 300 beats per second. The back pair of wings is slightly larger than the front pair. The dragonfly is nature’s aerobat, capable of flying sideways, backwards and upside down and at very fast speeds. One specimen was clocked at 36 MPH inAustralia.
Dragonflies have 30,000 lenses or eyes making up the larges domes on their heads. This enables them to see in all directions, thus avoiding being eaten by birds and detecting any prey in their airspace.
There are over 10,000 species of dragonfly in the world and over 450 species here in the US. There are species in every color imaginable and have been used for centuries as models for jewelry and stained glass. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s dragonfly lamp is the most well known stained glass lamp design ever created.
Dragonflies do not bite people. In fact they eat the disease carrying mosquitoes that do bite people, performing this important job as both juveniles and adults. This fact alone is reason why their natural habitats should be protected.
If you would like to study these fascinating winged creatures the best place is in an open field where there is still water near by. A great web site to view many of the different species here in the US is the Dragonfly Museum at Texas A & M University.
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