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Dragonflies - Facts and Photos

Updated on February 2, 2012


An interesting bright red dragonfly
An interesting bright red dragonfly

Beautiful Dragonflies

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! 

Do you enjoy seeing a dragonfly in nature?

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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Sallybea, I hear you, and I love the dragonflies also! So glad to know others do as well, like yourself. They are interesting little creatures, that is for sure. It makes me happy that you enjoyed the images and the information, and your comment is appreciated!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Mafya, the research you are doing sounds so interesting! I love the tiny details of these amazing little creatures, and am happy to share what I can. I love to take photos of them and learn more about them as I am able. Thank you for your comment!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

      oceansunsets - What can I say except that I love dragonflies. Enjoyed the images and the information. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      Mafya 4 years ago

      I love your site stumbled onto it while raeesrching giant water bugs for a column I write. I teach as well high school biology and environmental science mostly environmental science these days. Coming from a research background I see the importance of each field teaching tends to be vastly under-appreciated and not respected in this country, so thanks for recognizing its importance!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Vicky, thanks for your comment here, and I am not sure what would make so many dragonflies come to your yard. You are so lucky! I often worry about the lack of water for our dragonfly and butterfly friends.

      Your dragonfly teapot set sounds wonderful! I would love one of those. I am glad you stopped by and left a comment, thank you.

    • profile image

      Vicky 5 years ago

      A month ago we saw quite a few dragonflies hovering above the grasses in our back yard. I had never seen so many dragonflies in one place. I always would see them around water where I grew up but not this many at one time. I live south of Denver, hardly a place where you would expect to see them since the climate is so dry. I wondered if it is because we have a water source, our sprinklers which we are only allowed to run 3 days a week cuz of the drought conditions. And they needed to mate and lay eggs. (Someone in the area just posted on facebook that they had been home only 10 minutes and found 2 dragonflies in their home.) What do you think has caused the dragonflies to flood our backyard which is definitely not a pond?

      I used to watch dragonflies a lot when growing up. They always seemed to be so mysterious and mystical. Since my husband and I enjoy tea before bed we purchased from Teavana a tea set with a dragon motif. The teapot is from Japan.

      Thank you for this lovely site! Loved reading all the commments that you and everyone posted as well.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Happypuppy, so glad you stopped by. That they can eat mosquitos is for sure a plus in my book! Thank you for the comment.

    • happypuppy profile image

      happypuppy 6 years ago

      Brings back childhood memories. Thanks for sharing! Though I love dragonflies, I don't know much about their origin and habits. They are beautiful and yes, they eat mosquitos so they could be a good friend.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Sasha, thank you for the comment!

    • Sasha'sOnHubShell profile image

      Sasha'sOnHubShell 7 years ago from Florida

      Oh my goodness. BEAUTIFUL.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Papernotes, I loved hearing about when you were a child and how you enjoyed butterflies and dragonflies. I agree that with so much concrete and asphalt everywhere, we don't get to enjoy them as much. Perhaps that helps us to enjoy them even more though, when we do get to see them! Thank you for your comment.

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 7 years ago

      I remember when I was a young child that I used to catch dragonflies when our yard still has lots of plants. Those were the days when dragonflies and butterflies are abound. Now that almost every area is concreted, I just occasionally see them. I would love to see such red dragonfly.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Tony, I have been as well, they are fascinating creatures for sure! Thank you, and love and peace to you too!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I have always been fascinated by dragonflies so this was very interesting to me! Thanks so much.

      Love and peace


    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Scribenet, thank you! I think its wonderful that you like dragonflies so much, and the more I learn about them, I am not surprised. Very interesting creatures for sure! Useful, not just for keeping mosquitoes at bay, but other biting bugs too.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I like dragonflies even more than butterflies!

      My cottage in Northern Ontario has plentiful amounts buzzing around and often they will land on persons to sit as they wait for some bug to fly by. I always feel priviledged to inspect them up close!

      They really are great to have around; especially if there are deerflies around; deerfly bites are quite painful so having the dragonflies around at those times makes me really appreciate them!

      Not only beautiful, but very useful insects!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pcunix, I looked into it a little more, and there is some interesting finds in the fossils. I was short on time so couldn't read too much right now.

      I wonder too about what their prey was when so big! I can't imagine their compound eyes when they had wingspans that could be measured in feet! Thank you for your comment.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

      Oh, I misunderstood. I thought you meant that the large size was speculation.

      I don't know what the largest fossil is.

      But I have wondered about their diet - big bugs need to eat a lot. What was their prey then?

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I hear that, Nifty! I am a mosquito magnet sometimes, and appreciate anything that helps to get rid of them.

    • nifty@50 profile image

      nifty@50 7 years ago

      Anything that eats mosquitoes is a big plus in my book!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you Phoenix!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pcunix, my comment about the possible speculation was for the three foot wingspan of dragonflies, but how cool if there are fossils for those! I will have to look into that, and find out more. The two foot wingspan you mention was amazing enough as it is. I looked at your link you shared, and that was fascinating about the other insects not having the same effect, but that oxygen for the dragonflies had such an interesting effect. Thank you

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Daydreamer, thank you! Yes, up close dragonflies are rather odd creatures to view.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      Great hub!

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

      Not speculation. Fossils.

    • daydreamer13 profile image

      daydreamer13 7 years ago

      Very interesting. I never looked so closely at a dragonfly before.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Denise, thank you so much!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pcunix, that sounds fascinating, and yes I had read that they used to be up to three feet long at one time long ago, but that could be sheer speculation. Two feet long is nothing to shake a stick at, and thank you for the comment and link to find out more!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Carolina, thank you!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      this was a great hub and I voted it up. I love dragonflies and I'm actually disappointed that few people have commented on your hub. I thoroughly enjoyed it. :) Beautiful photos as well.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

      Did you know that when oxygen levels were higher, these insects had two foot wingspans?

      Scientists have been experimenting with regrowing these things:

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina


    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Gator Strong, thank you very much!

    • gator strong profile image

      gator strong 7 years ago from USA

      I like your hub. Great pictures


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