Dragonflies - Facts and Photos
I am only just beginning to learn what there is to know about dragonflies. I want to share some of that here with you.
They may seem a nuisance to some, but I find them to be very curious creatures and full of beauty. They love water of course, and have such amazing wings. You can often see right through them.
Where did the name, dragon fly, originate? I have always wondered that. It seems that it has nothing to do with the common house fly so there is no relation there.
The picture to the right that includes a "hand", is a picture of my son holding a damselfly nymph that can be found in bodies of freshwater. We put it back in, but we were on a nature field trip learning about aquatic insects during this part. Its very interesting to learn about dragonflies and all they go through to become adult dragon flies.
Some interesting facts about dragonflies
am sure there is so much that can be said about dragonflies, and the varieties of beautiful colors perhaps. They seem a little bit more shy than say the butterfly, and I mean in the sense of being "seen" and fluttering about. Dragon flies need to be near the water, where the butterfly can be fairly far away from water for a period of time. If you look, you can see them in your yard, or near ponds and streams, lakes, fields, and the woods.
Dragonflies are part of the Odanata order of insects. These also include damselflies. They share no relation at all with the common fly, other than the word fly. Did you know that there are more than five thousand individual species of Odanata or the dragonfly? This is just amazing, and you could spend a lot of time learning about their different colors and characteristics. There are over four hundred species in just the United States.
From birth, dragonflies are predators in their various stages. There is a small apendage on the head of dragon or damselfly that they can use as a "spear" to catch other small crustaceans or fish or larvae. You won't find a dragonfly born with wings, they go through a very interesting metamorphosis. It seems a bit more dangerous than for butterflies, a vulnerable time when the larvae emerge from their "water home" and become an adult. Most of a dragonflies life is being a larvae and that can last for about three years. Once an adult, part of the main goal is to find a mate and procreate. In fact, when you see a dragon fly, try to appreciate it because it has lived most of its life.
The dragonfly lays its eggs either on or near the water, which is partly why you will see them near bodies of water or slower moving streams. They can become very territorial near their home, and it isn't odd to see two males "fighting" over a territory. If you see two flying together through the air, or if connected together say on a leaf, it is likely that a male and female are mating. I have seen this before and it was very odd looking. I have some pictures even, but not sure where they are so I hope to post them here when I find them. It just shows an amazing close up of some beautiful dragonflies. I have never seen this, but once in a while dragonflies can travel together in swarms. Often this is because of changing weather.
If you want help with mosquitoes, then dragonflies will be your friend! They prey upon mosquito larvae and other small things in the water. So dragonflies can be helpful when mosquito populations get out of control. Some other things that dragonflies will eat include termites, mayflies, gnats, caddisflies and other small insects including flies (diptera). They often eat less in cold weather, but there are exceptions to the "rule."
Dragon fly emerges after the larva comes out of the water. Very weird but cool.
What creatures see dragonflies as prey?
As with so many things in life, the predators are often the prey themselves. So what eats dragonflies? Mainly you will find that in the younger stages other water bugs will eat them, and fish. Later, birds, spiders, frogs and lizards will eat a dragonfly.
Some final thoughts on the Dragonfly, some more interesting facts.
You will find two pairs of wings on a dragonfly and its one of the things I find so beautiful about them, their wings. When the wings are moving fast, some say it looks like more than two pairs of wings but that is just an illusion. I can't verify this for sure, but it has been suggested that very long ago, in ancient history that there were dragonflies that had a wingspan of almost 3 feet! If that is true, there is no larger flying insect in history that we currently know of. It was through a fossil this was found, and there seems to be no real reason to doubt it that I could find.
One thing the dragonfly has in common with the butterfly is they neither sting nor bite. They don't really cause problems for humans, but they do bring beauty to your garden or area. Dragonflies have what is called compound eyes. They are proportionately big for their size, and have features that allow them to see nearly 360 degrees around them! Their eyes are literally multifacted, so this is how it accomplishes this. Its like having a whole bunch of lenses seeing at the same time.
One built in safety feature for dragonflies is their speedy flight. Some can fly upwards towards 30 miles per hour! Also, they can fly in many directions as needed and can also hover at will which is always interesting to see. It is as if they are pondering what to do next, mid flight and stop to think about it, then fly on rather quickly once the "decision" has been made.
There is one "old wives tale" that I heard, and will share here, though there are probably many more. It was said that if you slept outside, to beware because the "darning needle" of a dragonfly might sew your eyes shut!? This is silly, but some poor kid somewhere heard that and probably had a hard time falling asleep one night! Rest easy, it has never happened of course! Another one is that if you dream of a dragonfly landing on your body, then you are going to hear good news from someone far away. I always find those things interesting. Anyway, I hope you learned something new about the dragonfly. I think we need to be nice to them, as they help keep the mosquito populations at bay!