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Interesting Facts And Information On the Dragonfly

Updated on October 07, 2016

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

Warming his wings in the sun.
Warming his wings in the sun. | Source
Mesurupetala, Late Jurassic (Tithonian), Solnhofen limestone, Germany
Mesurupetala, Late Jurassic (Tithonian), Solnhofen limestone, Germany | Source

Introduction

Dragonflies have been in existence for over 300 million years. Long before the dinosaurs walked the earth, Griffenflies, which were their prehistoric ancestors, flew the skies. The largest dragonfly fossil found had a wingspan of 2 ½ feet. The largest known now is said to live in Costa Rica and has a wingspan of 7 ½ inches. Today, there are approximately 3000 species of dragonflies, and they can be found all over the world (except for Antarctica and Arctic Alaska).

Dragonflies are used to decorate many beautiful pieces of art and sculpture.
Dragonflies are used to decorate many beautiful pieces of art and sculpture. | Source

Culture

Dragonflies represent grace and beauty and are often used in art and poetry. Other names for dragonflies are “water dipper” in England, “old glassy” in China, and the ancients Celts called dragonflies “big needle of wings” because of the needle-like shape of their bodies. In some Native American cultures, dragonflies are believed to be the “souls of the dead.” Dragonflies were once called the "devil’s darning needles," and it was said that the dragonfly would find misbehaving children during the night and come sew their mouths shut. In southern parts of the U.S., the dragonfly is known as the “snake doctor.” The folklore belief is that the dragonfly follows the snakes and will sew them back together if they become injured.

Damselfly. Notice wings held together close to body.
Damselfly. Notice wings held together close to body. | Source

Description

Many people confuse dragonflies and damselflies. The easiest way to tell them apart is the fact that the dragonfly will hold its wings flat, away from its body, at rest. The damselfly will fold its wings close to its body when resting. The damselfly also has a slimmer body than the dragonfly.

Female widow skimmer dragonfly, warming her wings.
Female widow skimmer dragonfly, warming her wings. | Source

Adult dragonflies have the same typical head, thorax, and abdomen divisional bodies as other typical insects. Their head is large compared to the rest of their body, and they have very short antennae. The have two large ball shaped compound eyes which have approximately 30,000 ommatidia, or “lenses,” allowing them to see in a complete 360 degree span. They also have a “flattened” area in front of its eyes with eye cells that see directly in front allowing it to zoom in on its prey. Compared to other insects, the dragonfly has excellent vision.

The mouth of the dragonfly is adapted for biting with a toothed jaw, which is where they get their “dragon” name. However, the dragonfly is harmless to humans: their jaw is too small and they have no “stinger.”

The dragonfly has two sets of very strong wings. Although its wings are transparent and appear very delicate, they are much stronger than they appear. They are not jointed like butterfly wings, and each of their four wings work independently of each other. This allows the dragonfly the agility it has in the air. They can fly straight up or down, make hairpin turns, fly backwards, and hover like a hummingbird. The fastest dragonfly recorded flew at an amazing speed of 30 miles per hour, but their cruising speed is more around 10 mph.

Once the dragonfly has zoomed in on its prey, it grabs it with its set of six legs. The legs are positioned so they form a pouch-like shape that helps it hold on to its prey. They also use their legs for climbing on plants, perching, and walking, but it is rare for a dragonfly to walk.

Dragonfly Wings in Slow Motion

Dragonfly nymph.
Dragonfly nymph. | Source

Habitat

Dragonflies will be found near water. The female dragonflies may lay their eggs on the surface of water or deposit them on aquatic plants. When the eggs hatch, the nymph remains in the water and will hunt and eat aquatic invertebrates. The dragonfly will spend most of its life as a nymph, depending on the species, that could be anywhere from 3 months to 5 years in larger species.

Female widow skimmer dragonfly, warming her wings in the sun.
Female widow skimmer dragonfly, warming her wings in the sun. | Source

Temperature Control

Dragonflies, like all insects, are ectotherms, which means they cannot regulate their body temperature themselves and rely on their surrounding environment to cool or warm themselves. Their flight muscles have to be kept at a fairly warm temperature for them to be able to fly. Some dragonflies “patrol,” meaning they fly back and forth, as compared to those that tend to perch. In order for the “patrolling” dragonflies to warm up their bodies, they will fire up their wings using a rapid whirring motion. “Perching dragonflies rely on the sun for warmth and will skillfully position their bodies to gain the maximum exposure of the sun for warmth. Some dragonflies even use their wings as reflectors, either positioning their wings to reflect the suns warm rays towards their bodies or deflect the sun away from them to cool their bodies."

Diet

Dragonflies are carnivorous and usually hunt during flight. They eat a wide variety of insects including:

  • mosquitoes
  • butterflies
  • moths
  • damselflies
  • even smaller dragonflies.

Just one dragonfly can eat up to several hundred mosquitoes per day. The adults will catch and carry their prey to a perch where they will discard any wings and then ingest their prey, usually starting with the head first.

In the nymph stage, they will eat mainly bloodworms and insect larvae, but are also able to catch and eat tadpoles and very small fish.

Dragonfly nymph just after exiting its dried larval skin or exuvia, drying its wings.
Dragonfly nymph just after exiting its dried larval skin or exuvia, drying its wings. | Source

Life Span And Predators

Once the dragonfly’s eggs hatch, the nymph will remain in the water and molt between 9 and 17 times before reaching adulthood. During the last molting, the nymph will crawl out of the water and the exoskeleton will crack open to release its abdomen. Its wings will straighten out and begin to dry. It can take from several hours to several days for the “teneral” adult’s body to harden and its wings to strengthen enough for it to fly. It is during this time that the dragonfly is very vulnerable to predators.

The dragonfly is a fast and agile flyer, but can be caught by birds such as falcons, hawks, swifts, flycatchers, and swallows. There are some species of ducks and herons that eat dragonfly larvae as well as newts, frogs, and fish. Once the nymphs have reached the adult stage, as a dragonfly, they have a short life span. Some living for only a few weeks, while others may live up to a year.

Do you find dragonflies interesting as well as beautiful?

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    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 15 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you, Moonlake! I appreciate you stopping by! :)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 16 months ago from America

      Love dragonflies. I get some pretty ones here. Sometimes they are so flighty I have a hard time getting a good photo of them, but I do have a few nice photos. Enjoyed your hub.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 18 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I agree! I love watching the dragonflies as they are so graceful when flying. Thank you for all your support, my friend and have a wonderful day!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 18 months ago from sunny Florida

      Dragonflys are almost as lovely to me as butterflies. I love being surrounded by them when I mow as they dance around me in all of the varied colors....well done....

      Share pinned g+ tweeted

      Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Delores! I love your after-life metaphor story! Thank you for sharing it with me. I appreciate you stopping by too and hope you have a wonderful day!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you Peg! Here too! We have also had a lot of rain and mosquitoes are everywhere! Thanks for stopping by!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you so much, vocalcoach! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate you stopping by and all your support. Have wonderful day!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you, Faith Reaper! I do love to see dragonflies and I enjoy it when the follow me on my walks. I appreciate your kind comment at all of your support! Have a wonderful day!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I would really love to see that "Jurassic" dragonfly! I always enjoy watching the dragonflies we have around here. They seem to follow me when I go for my walks. Thank you for stopping by and the vote up! Have a wonderful day!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I have seen lots of dragonflies so far this spring and I love to watch them. I am all for the eating all these mosquitoes we have to! Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have a beautiful day!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 22 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Lots of interesting information here about these fascinating creatures. We really need a bunch of them here in TX with all the rain lately. There are so many mosquitoes.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 22 months ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Sheila - I am a big dragonfly fan for several reasons, one I will share that is a metaphor for the after-life. Dragonfly nymphs in a pond wondered where their friends disappeared to. They'd climb up the stem of a pond plant never to be seen again. A nymph told his friends that after he climbed up above the surface of the pond, he would return to tell his buddies the news. He rose and broke the surface of the water. Once there in the open air, he slipped free of his past state. Huge wings emerged. They glistened in the sun. He spread them and soared above the little pond. He remembered his friends and his promise. But how could he reach them? They lived in the water; he above. He may frighten them. It was all so different, so amazing! They would not understand. So, the dragonfly flew on, knowing that his friends would one day join him and that then they would understand.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 22 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Fantastic hub on dragonflies Sheila! Enjoyed it all, particularly the Culture section. Very glad you've shared all this great information and I will too. Voted up and across (not funny).

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

      Hi Sheila,

      Wonderful hub! Dragonflies are fascinating and beautiful insects. I wish I would see more of them around.

      I learned a lot here. Your photos are always amazing.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 22 months ago

      A 30,000 eyed Jurassic dragonfly. Cool

      Voted up. I always like to see dragonflies in my garden. I consider them to be good luck.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 22 months ago from Minnesota

      I love it when the dragonflies are plentiful around here. They do not bit so they are alright with me. Plus, they eat those dang mosquitoes.

      There are so many different species of dragonflies in this world, some of the more colorful ones are very beautiful.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 23 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks Sheila for interlinking our hubs about the beautiful dragonflies. Much appreciated. Hope you are enjoying your Friday and the upcoming weekend.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Peggy! I do love to watch the dragonflies! Thank you so much for the kind comment, link and share. I will be looking for your hub and be happy to do the same! Have a great day!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 23 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Sheila,

      Like you, I find dragonflies to be interesting creatures as well as beautiful. We live a short block away from a greenbelt area in our subdivision that has water in a drainage ditch. So we often see dragonflies in our yard and area. You did a great job with this hub. Will be happy to attach a link from your hub to mine and also share++.

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Flourish! Hubby and I had a great chance to go to Costa Rica and passed it up. I have regretted that ever since! I don't really know how I would react to such a large dragonfly! Thanks for stopping by and the votes! Have a beautiful day!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

      Any 7 1/2 inch dragonfly no matter how pretty would have me running or swatting in the air (I'd hope not to hurt anyone though). I'll stay out of Costa Rica. Great hub. Very educational and entertaining. Voted up and more.

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you Cornelia! I love dragonflies too and find them very fascinating! I appreciate you stopping by and have a great day!

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 23 months ago from Cork, Ireland

      Thank you very much for this hub, Sheila! I learned so many new things about these amazing creatures. I myself like creating dragonflies in Photoshop, they are so beautiful. Never had an idea how to discern damselfly from dragonfly. It is so interesting :)

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Shauna. That would be very sad, poor thing. Most dragonflies don't live very long after their nymph stage. It was probably just his time. Thank you for stopping by!

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello, Bill! We have 2 "farm ponds" on our place, so there are usually a lot of dragonflies around. Ours aren't very colorful though, mostly brown tones and a bit of blue. Thank you for stopping by and have a great day!

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      You are very welcome sallybea! I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and I thank you for stopping by!

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you, Jackie! I love dragonflies too and have the first picture you saw here hanging on one of my walls. I just wish we had a bit more colorful ones around here! Find that dragonfly stuff and make some jewelry with it, I would love to see a hub on it!

    • sgbrown profile image
      Author

      Sheila Brown 23 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you Patricia! I love to watch dragonflies and the one in the first picture seemed to want to keep my company as I went for a walk one day. I think "earth angels" are a wonderful name for them!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 23 months ago from Central Florida

      Sheila, dragonflies are so cool. Yesterday, I noticed one perched on an archway of my house (stucco). When I came out later, it was dead on the ground directly below where it was perched. It's wings were gone and ants were eating it's body. I found that very sad.

      Apparently, the dragonfly was dead or dying when I saw him perched (vertically) on the arch. What would have caused that?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      This has always been one of my favorite insects and still I learned something here. Thanks for the info....any trip to the lake is always a pleasure, in part because of the dragonflies I always see. Now I just have to entice them to hang out in our garden area.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Love the dragonfly; I even did an article on it once and bought up some dragonfly stuff to make jewelry and all that and never did. I need to look for that, might still be fun. Some of them are so large and so gorgeous!

      Voting up!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 23 months ago from Norfolk

      Love Dragonflies, one of my favorite things to photograph. Nature sure is a miracle and I very much enjoyed learning a few new facts about them, thanks for sharing.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 23 months ago from sunny Florida

      Cool video ....I adore dragonflies. My niece calls them earth angels and she actually named them that when her sister, another precious niece, died too soon.

      I just read a hub by Peggy W a few days ago about these amazing insects. Last summer there were so many of them around, all colors, and now this spring is beginning the same way.

      Thanks for sharing, Sheila.

      Angels are on the way.

      ps

      Voted up++++ shared

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