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Dragonfly Facts

Dragonflies are insects with 6 legs and a large abdomen. They are fast fliers reaching speeds over 30 miles per hour.

Dragonflies are very colorful insects that like to live in warm climates and near the water. They like to eat mosquitoes and gnats as well as other insects.

They use their legs to catch their prey while still flying and their compound eyes to see in all directions.

Dragonflies are heavy-bodied, strong-flying insects which hold their wings horizontally both in flight and at rest.

An adult dragonfly has three segments: a head with short antennae, a thorax and abdomen, two compound eyes, and three simple eyes, or ocelli. The jaws are adapted for biting with a toothed jaw, and the head is held in place by a special system.

Dragonfly Facts for Kids

  • The dragonfly has a wide variety of vivid colors.
  • You can identify a dragonfly by its long body, transparent wings, and large eyes.
  • Around 3,000 dragonfly species exist worldwide.
  • Dragonflies eat a wide range of insects.
  • They can catch their prey mid-air.
  • Dragonflies eat over 100 mosquitoes every day.

Where do Dragonflies Live?

There are dragonflies all over the world, but they are most frequently found in warmer climates near water. Dragonflies are usually found near rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams since they start their lives in water.

Petalura ingentissima, from Australia, is the biggest dragonfly. Its wingspan is up to 6.3 inches (16 cm). 

The smallest dragonflies have a mere 7/10 inch (17 – 18 mm) wingspan.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

What do Dragonflies Eat?

Dragonflies hunt on the wing using their acute eyesight and strong, agile flight. They are mostly carnivorous, eating small midges, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths, damselflies, and smaller dragonflies.

Nymphs are voracious predators and eat most living things smaller than themselves. They also feed on tadpoles and small fish, but mostly bloodworms.

What are dragonfly predators?

Although dragonflies are quick and agile fliers, they can be caught by various predators, including falcons, nighthawks, swifts, flycatchers, and swallows. Some species of wasps also capture dragonflies for their nests.

How are dragonflies born?

Dragonflies have an interesting life cycle. They hatch from eggs laid by female dragonflies on ponds and lakes. The young dragonfly larvae feed on algae growing on submerged plants. After they grow larger, the larvae drop into the water and transform into adult dragonflies.

How fast can a dragonfly fly

The fastest speed at which a dragonfly can fly is around 22-34mph. This is because they have very small wings compared to other insects such as bees. They also have an extremely high wing loading ratio, meaning they are very heavy for their size.

What is special about a dragonfly

Dragonflies are insects that have two pairs of wings on each side of their body. They are very small creatures with long slender bodies and large eyes. Their wings are transparent, and they fly by flapping them rapidly.

Dragonflies are found worldwide, and most species feed on nectar from flowers. Some species are predators.

They live for around 7 – 56 days. The female lays her eggs on plants, leaving them until they hatch.

The larvae (caterpillars) grow into adults within five days.

How many legs on a dragonfly

The number of legs on a dragonfly is 6.

How do dragonflies protect themselves from predators?

Dragonflies evade predators with their fast and agile flight. They can hide in vegetation or use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. When threatened, they will either freeze or flee.

How do dragonflies kill their prey?

Dragonflies use their legs to catch insects. They don’t just flap their wings when they fly around looking for food. Instead, they hover over the water and quickly swoop down on an insect. Then they grab the insect with their feet and pull it into their mouth.

The dragonfly uses its strong jaws to crush the insect’s exoskeleton. This makes it easier for them to swallow. Once inside the stomach, the insect is digested by enzymes secreted from special cells lining the walls of the gut. These enzymes break down the insect’s proteins and fats.

After digestion, the remains of the insect are regurgitated as waste material. Some waste material may pass through the dragonfly’s intestines and exit through the anus. However, most of it gets reabsorbed into the bloodstream.

Distribution

Dragonflies are found on every continent except Antarctica; some species live throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

They live at temperatures ranging from 18 to 45 °C and can survive at temperatures well above the thermal death point of insects of the same species.

They become scarce at higher latitudes, including in Kamchatka where only a few species are found, and in northern Alaska where only a treeline emerald lives.

Reproduction

The male dragonfly drives off rival males, attracts a female to his territory, transfers his sperm from his primary to secondary genitalia, grasps the female by the head with claspers at the end of his abdomen, and the pair flies in tandem.

Egg-laying involves the female flying over floating or waterside vegetation to deposit eggs, the male hovering above her or continuing to clasp her and flying in tandem, and a rival male trying to scrape out the previous sperm.

The form of laying eggs depends on species and can include slicing a plant with a sharp edge, shaking the eggs out of the abdomen, or placing the eggs on vegetation.

Life cycle

Dragonflies are hemimetabolous insects that are born as nymphs and then molt many times to become adults. They have a toothed labium that extends to capture prey like mosquito larvae, tadpoles, and small fish.

When a naiad is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it stops feeding, climbs a reed or other emergent plant, molts, and emerges, swallowing air, pumping hemolymph into its wings, and expanding to its full extent.

In temperate areas, dragonflies in spring and summer can be categorized into two groups. The spring species emerge in a few days and disappear several weeks later.

The sex ratio of male to female dragonflies varies both temporally and spatially. Males use wetlands to breed while females use dry meadows and marginal breeding habitats to avoid male harassment.

Dragonfly Eyesight

Dragonflies have enormous eyes that wrap around the top of their heads. They use sight to find prey and avoid predators.

Their vision resembles human slow motion. Unlike us, dragonflies see around 200 images per second. A dragonfly sees 360 degrees, using 80% of its brain for sight.

Dragonfly Wings

Dragonflies have two sets of wings, and they flap them at different speeds. Dragonflies have four main types of flight: hovering (also called kiting), gliding, flapping, and soaring.

Amazing Colors

Dragonflies have brilliant iridescent colors produced by structural coloration, making them conspicuous in flight. The blues and greens are typically created by microstructures in the cuticle that reflect blue light, and fresh adults are often pale.

Dragonfly nymphs are a well-camouflaged blend of dull brown, green, and grey, with some species having a structural blue that is produced structurally by scattering from arrays of tiny spheres beneath the cuticle.

Behaviour

Male dragonflies defend their territory by joshing other dragonflies, defending the breeding territory by holding their white abdomen aloft like a flag, defending the feeding ground by feigning death in some species, or by defending certain perches.

Flight

Dragonflies are powerful and agile fliers that can migrate across the sea and change direction suddenly. In flight, they can take six directions (up, down, forward, backward, left, right), and use four different flight styles: counter-stroking, phased-stroking, synchronized-stroking, and gliding.

Dragonflies use four different lift mechanisms, including classical lift like an aircraft wing, supercritical lift with the wing above the critical angle, and vortices, and flexing and twisting during each beat.

Dragonflies can fly at a maximum speed of about 36 km/h (22 mph) and can travel at a speed of 100 body lengths per second.