Dragons fly too, and they go through a life cycle just like all other insects. Life is complicated enough for adults to understand, so how do you help your kids understand the lifecycle of a dragonfly? The best way to teach them about the life cycle of a dragonfly is by using this fun worksheet set of ours!
The history of the dragonfly is a little fuzzy, but some say that the dragonfly was created when Saint George pierced a pond and let all of the insects out. And while there are over 3000 varieties of dragonflies worldwide, they can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Life Cycle of a Dragonfly
While the Saint George legend seems a tad far-fetched , it’s said that dragonflies have been around since the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago.
Which do you think is closer to the truth?
What is a dragonfly
A dragonfly is a type of insect that belongs to the Odonata order. The Greek term for tooth is odon. Dragonflies lack actual teeth, but they do have massive, powerful mandibles with highly pointed tooth-like serrations.
Even though they have six legs and three body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen), dragonflies are not technically flies. And, unlike most insects, they are unable to walk. The fundamental distinction between them is that flies have just two wings, whereas dragonflies have four.
Their compound eyes are close together, and each one contains around 28,000 single eyes, called ommatidia.
Where do dragonflies live
Freshwater dragonflies are juvenile dragonflies. They are most plentiful and varied in smooth waters without fish (small streams and ponds), but they can be found in a variety of modest freshwater settings, like swamps, bogs and wetlands. Adult dragonflies like to stay close to water, lakes and ponds, but they may venture further out while feeding or migrating.
What are the stages of their life cycle
Dragonflies live their life in three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
Egg Stage: Why do dragonflies lay eggs in water?
Dragonflies are one of the world’s oldest insect species, and have existed for 300 million years. Dragonfly larvae need water to live, therefore female adults are continually looking for places to deposit their eggs near water, such as ponds, streams, and swamps. The eggs are deposited either immediately in or near water.
Dragonfly eggs are only laid in calm water and can hatch in as little as five days in humid tropical regions. Dragonfly eggs generally don’t hatch until the following spring in temperate areas with cold weather.
Life cycle of a Dragonfly: Nymph
Nymphs are dragonfly larvae that emerge from their eggs. Nymphs of dragonflies are aggressive predators who bear no resemblance to their adult counterparts. Depending on the species, they can molt (lose their skin) up to 17 times and spend up to five years as nymphs.
Dragonfly nymphs possess six legs, wing sheaths, and a flexible mouth that may be extended. Nymphs breathe using gills situated within their rectums during this time.
The larvae are entirely carnivorous, like their parents. They are vicious predators who will eat whatever aquatic animals they can get. They eat water insects such as water beetles and mosquito larvae, as well as worms, tadpoles, and even tiny fish.
The larvae of dragonflies have a novel approach of capturing prey. The larvaes lower jaw is flexible and extensible, with terrifying hooks and razor- like jaws. As a result, dragonfly larvae are a natural predator in swamp and still water food chains.
The final larval molt of the dragonfly takes place outside of the water. The final-stage larvae spend many days along the water’s edge. They begin inhaling air as they prepare for their last molt.
Adult dragonflies may live anywhere from 6-8 week up to a year. The prereproductive and reproductive period are the two periods of dragonfly adulthood.
The reproductive period can last up to 60 days, at which point dragonflies are then able to mate and reproduce.
Dragonflies swarm, according to dragonfly experts. Scientists are aware of two types of swarms: static feeding swarms (hundreds to millions of dragonflies flying in a single direction in massive groups, often 15-30 meters above the ground, usually feeding on clouds of small insects) and migratory flocks (hundreds to millions of dragonflies gliding in a single direction in large groups).
In fact, according to the National Weather Service, invasions of dragonflies swarmed areas of the United States at such a rapid rate that they were being picked up on radars in three states.
Mating and Reproduction
Dragonfly mating is quite a phenomenon and can take anywhere from seconds to hours to complete. The male transports sperm from his end of the abdomen to his genitalia towards the top of his abdomen. He then uses his abdominal claspers to grab a female by the back of the head. The female’s abdomen is curled to meet the male’s accessory genitalia, and sperm is transmitted (the wheel position).
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Dragonflies catch prey by first grasping it with their spikey feet (like a basket) or catching bugs directly into their mouth. Mosquitoes are a favorite snack of dragonflies and they have been known to catch insects while they are in flight. They also like to feed on bees, mayflies, moths, butterflies and even other mosquitos.
Dragonflies, like other insects, have multifaceted eyes. Dragonflies have substantially more facets than any other insect, with 30,000 compared to the housefly’s 6,000.
Dragonflies may utilize smells to seek prey despite lacking the brain architecture necessary for a sense of smell, according to a recent research.
How can you tell if a dragonfly has died
A dragonfly has most likely died when it is grey in coloration, on its back or side, and has no visible signs of life or movement. You may also see other small creatures, such as ants, feasting on the remains of the decomposing dragonfly.
Why don’t we have more dragonflies around anymore
Habitat loss is one of the most serious dangers to dragonflies. To make room for urban and industrial expansion, most of the marsh habitat that these dragonflies rely on for survival is drained and filled for industrial development.
Pesticide pollution has caused harm to dragonflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and mayflies, among other invertebrates. These species are not extinct, but their numbers have plummeted. Pollinators and aquatic invertebrates are decreasing in the United States. In some species, numbers have dropped by more than half across the Upper Mississippi River and Lake Erie regions.
How dragonflies are beneficial
Dragonflies are beneficial to gardeners and nature lovers because they consume mosquitoes and other insects. They benefit the environment by minimizing the need for chemicals to kill pests. By releasing dragonflies in regions where mosquitoes, horseflies, and deer flies are present, dragonflies can aid in the reduction of certain illnesses.
However, dragonflies are ravenous and indifferent feeders, thus they may also prey on beneficial garden species, like ladybugs or pollinators.
Fossilized remains of dragonflies have revealed wingspans of up to two feet in similar species (genus Meganeura).
And, unique dragonfly fossils from around 50 million years ago illustrate how life rebounded after the dinosaurs went extinct. These findings can help us better comprehend climate change. Scientists believe these insects to be reliable bioindicators of ecosystem health since they require steady oxygen levels and clean water.