Dragonflies are colorful insects that make their presence known during the spring and summer. They’re easily identified by their shimmering wings and erratic flight pattern.
Yet, how much do you know about these prehistoric-looking winged creatures? If they’re swarming around your home, you might wonder if they’re dangerous. (Spoiler alert: They’re not!)
Keep reading to learn more about dragonflies, including their habitat, how they benefit the environment, and whether you need to worry about bites or stings.
Dragonflies are distinct insects, with their long bodies, large eyes, and transparent wings.
While you might only see a certain type of dragonfly around your home, there are more than 5,000 species throughout the world. They can be found anywhere, but typically live near shallow freshwater, such as ponds, streams, lakes, and wetlands.
They have a short life span
Dragonflies have a short life span, with many living for only 1 to 2 weeks, although some can live up to 8 weeks. Because of their short life span, dragonflies spend most of their time eating or mating.
Mating begins when a male dragonfly approaches a female dragonfly and attaches himself to her thorax with his legs. This results in a tandem fly, at which point their sex organs join and the couple’s body forms a closed circle for fertilization.
They lay their eggs in a water source
After fertilization, female dragonflies lay their eggs in a water source. The egg hatches within days or months, and the dragonfly begins its larval stage, which can last, on average, 1 to 2 years based on water temperature.
These aquatic baby dragonflies have large eyes, oval abdomens, six legs, and gills for breathing,
They eat their prey while in flight
Over time, the baby dragonfly starts breathing air, and its head, legs, and wings emerge from the larval skin. Once an adult dragonfly emerges, it quickly learns how to target its prey and eat while in flight.
Dragonflies prey on mosquitos, small flies, butterflies, bees, and other dragonflies.
Some migrate, like birds
Similar to birds, some dragonflies also exhibit migration behavior. In North America, migration typically occurs in late summer and early fall, where certain species migrate from Canada to Mexico.
According to the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, there are approximately 326 species of dragonflies in North America, yet only 16 species migrate on a regular basis. These swarms of dragonflies are so vast that they’ve been seen from space.
If you see a lot of dragonflies where you live, you may ask whether these winged insects bite. The short answer is yes.
Keep in mind, though, that dragonflies don’t have a stinger, so they won’t sting you. They do, however, have teeth. So a bite is possible.
Dragonflies aren’t an aggressive insect, but they can bite out of self-defense when they feel threatened. The bite isn’t dangerous, and in most cases, it won’t break human skin.
Interestingly, dragonflies are important to the environment. Dragonflies mostly feed on mosquitoes and other insects, so they do an excellent job of reducing mosquito populations around homes.
Dragonflies can eat hundreds of mosquitoes each day. If you notice an increase of dragonflies around your home, you may also notice a decrease in mosquitoes, horseflies, and other pesky insects.
And since dragonflies play a big role in controlling the mosquito population, they also help reduce the likelihood of getting infectious diseases carried by some mosquitoes, such as malaria, West Nile virus, and dog heartworms.
Here’s a look at a few other key interesting facts about dragonflies:
1. Prehistoric dragonflies were bigger
Most of the dragonflies you see today are small and have a wingspan of about 2 to 5 inches. However, researchers believe that prehistoric dragonflies were much larger in size. Some of these winged insects had wingspans of more than 2 feet.
2. The stage from egg to adult varies
The life cycle from egg to larval to adult isn’t a set period, but rather varies depending on the temperature. Dragonflies that hatch in colder water will take longer to develop into an adult, up to 5 years. Yet, dragonflies that hatch in warmer waters may become an adult in about 2 years.
3. They’re strong flyers
In the insect world, dragonflies are some of the strongest flyers, with the ability to fly farther and higher than many other winged insects. They can fly at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
4. They have impressive eyesight
The eye of a dragonfly has about 30,000 lenses — a human eye only has one lens. As a result, the dragonfly has the ability to see all around itself.
5. They have a lot of enemies
Even though the dragonfly will prey on horseflies, mosquitoes, and other insects, it also has its own enemies. Adult dragonflies can be eaten by larger dragonflies, spiders, birds, and frogs. In the larval stage, its enemies include frogs, toads, and fish.
Dragonflies are more than agile flyers. They’re interesting creatures consisting of more than 5,000 species around the world, with a life cycle that can take up to 5 years.
They’re also great for natural pest control. So, the next time you see one flying around your home, don’t swat it away — it’s actually doing you a favor.