I have a special affinity for dragonflies! In many parts of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change and transformation. To me, they've become a reminder of our innate ability to rise above our circumstances, no matter what they are, and transform ourselves.
Learning more about these fascinating creatures, you'll understand why they've become associated with our ability to transform ourselves, time and time again.
"I am the Dragonfly Rising on the wings of unlocked dreams, On the verge of magical things."
― Aimee Stewart
Dragonflies begin and live most of their life in water
Before they become the iridescent beauties we see flying about, dragonflies exist in a larval stage (called nymphs)under water. In fact, most of their lifespan is spent in this aquatic stage (up to two years), before their metamorphosis into a full grown dragonfly.
After molting 9-17 times, the nymph will finally be ready for adulthood! It crawls out of the water onto a rock or plant stem and molts one last time, releasing its abdomen and four wings.
Halloween Pennant dragonfly resting on a tall reed in a marshy area of Yellowstone Lake State Park near Blanchardville, WI
"The wings of transformation are born of patience and struggle"
― Janet S. Dickens
Dragonflies have a short, and often precarious, adult lifespan
On average, adult dragonflies live for only a few weeks to a couple of months. After the dragonfly's final molt, it takes up to an hour to fully expand it's body and several hours to days for it to dry and harden. This newly emerged, soft-bodied dragonfly, referred to as a teneral adult, is a weak flier and highly vulnerable to predators. Birds and other predators consume up to 90% of young dragonflies in the first few days after emergence.
Widow Skimmer dragonfly Yellowstone Lake State Park near Blanchardville, WI
"Spend time near the water Be colorful Enjoy a good reed Zoom in on your dreams Appreciate long summer days Keep your eyes open Just wing it!"
― Ila Shamir
Dragonflies are masters of flight
Dragonflies can move each of their four wings independently. In addition to flapping each wing up and down, they can rotate their wings forward and back on an axis. This flexibility enables them to put on an aerial show like no other insect. Dragonflies can move straight up or down, fly backwards, stop and hover, and make hairpin turns, at full speed or in slow motion. A dragonfly can fly forward at a speed of 100 body lengths per second, or up to 30 miles per hour. The ability to fly is integral to their survival, because dragonflies only eat prey they catch while flying. If they can’t fly, they would starve.
Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly resting on a perch in it's territory at Parfrey's Glen State Natural Area near Merrimac, WI
"Long, glinting dragonflies shot across the path, or hung tremulous with gauzy wings and gleaming bodies."
― Arthur Conan Doyle
Dragonflies are excellent pest-controllers
Dragonflies are beautiful to look at, but they are also important in our ecosystems. They help us monitor the health of bodies of freshwater, serve as an important link in the food web, and protect us from pesky mosquitoes, flies, wasps, gnats and other small and potentially annoying insects. A single dragonfly can eat 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day!
Most likely a female Common Whitetail Skimmer dragonfly Yellowstone Lake State Park near Blanchardville, WI
"Scatter brilliance Celebrate the sunshine Live in joy & land softly Follow your bliss"
Dragonflies have excellent vision
Nearly all of the dragonfly’s head is eye, so they have incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them. Each compound eye contains as many as 30,000 lenses, or ommatidia. A dragonfly uses about 80% of its brain to process all this visual information. They can see a wider spectrum of colors than humans. This remarkable vision helps them detect the movement of other insects and avoid collisions in flight.
Bluet Damselfly On a bank of the Sugar River, Verona WI
“Let me nurture my wings, for I was born to fly.”
― Ankita Singhal
Some dragonflies migrate
A number of dragonfly species are known to migrate, either singly or en masse. As with other organisms that migrate, dragonflies relocate to follow or find needed resources, or in response to environmental changes like cold weather. Green darners, for example, fly south each fall, moving in sizeable swarms. They migrate north again in the spring. The globe skimmer is one of several species known to develop in temporary freshwater pools. Forced to follow the rains that replenish their breeding sites, the globe skimmer set a new insect world record when a biologist documented its 11,000 mile trip between India and Africa.