Dragonflies need fresh water to complete their life cycle, so we often see them flying around the lakes at Tara and along the banks of the Mississippi River around pockets of still water.
Dragonfly Life Cycle
Dragonflies spend most of their lives as nymphs (larval form) in the water, sometimes for as long as 5 years. Eventually, the nymph will crawl out of the water and shed its skin to become an adult dragonfly. The adult dragonfly stage of its life is much shorter, sometimes only a few months or a year.
The Food Chain
Unlike many common garden insects, dragonflies are carnivores, meaning they feed on other creatures. They feed on insects, fish, tadpoles, and other tiny creatures during the different stages of its life. As a nymph, it feeds on mosquito larvae, other aquatic insects, tadpoles, tiny fish, and other aquatic creatures. Adult dragonflies feed on insects caught in the air. They eat mosquitoes, biting flies, mayflies, and other insects.
Dragonflies serve as food for many different aquatic species and amphibians, birds, and even mammals. Fish, frogs, newts, and other larger aquatic creatures eat the dragonfly nymphs. Adult dragonflies are food for birds, lizards, bats, and even spiders!
Our Favorite Fun Facts
Dragonflies are pretty amazing. Some come in bright, sometimes iridescent colors like blue, green, gold, and even red. These are our favorite facts about these fascinating insects:
#1 Dragonflies are fast flyers!
They can fly at speeds up to 34 mph.
#2 Dragonflies can fly in any direction.
They can hover in mid-air, fly right, left, up, down, forwards, and even backwards.
#3 Dragonflies can accelerate with a lot of force compared to their body size.
The G force of a dragonfly making a turn can be as high as 9 times for the force of gravity, while when flying in straight line it can be as high 4G. That’s a lot of G’s for such a small insect. In comparison, most humans will pass out around 4 or 5 G’s.
#4 Dragonflies are found on every continent except Antarctica
There are over 5,000 species of dragonflies. Most of these are found in the tropics.
#5 Some species of dragonflies migrate.
The globe skimmer (Pantala flavescens) has the longest dragonfly migration known to science – about 11,000 miles.
#6 Dragonflies are predators.
As nymphs they feed on aquatic insects, fish, tadpoles, and mosquito larvae. As adults, they eat other flying insects, including mosquitoes and biting flies.
#7 To cool off, dragonflies will skim the surface of a pond or lake.
The water helps to reduce their body temperature as it evaporates.
#8 Dragonflies gather in swarms.
There are two types of swarms – one for migration and one for feeding. If you see a group of dragonflies hovering a few feet over the ground, flying back and forth in the same area, they are feeding.
#9 Dragonflies see ultraviolet light.
This helps them to better see their prey.
#10 Dragonflies do not sting.
Instead, they use their amazing flying skills and ability to track the movement of prey to catch insects in mid-flight, using their legs to hold their prey.