Insects that fly around are frequently a nuisance. Mosquito bites leave stinging red welts on your skin—wasps and bees sting. Dragonflies, on the other hand, have a magical quality about them. They may bite if provoked, yet they won’t break human skin.
Some 300 million years ago, dragonflies were among the earliest winged insects to emerge. Prehistoric dragonflies with wingspans up to two feet have been unearthed. According to some scientists, high oxygen levels during the Paleozoic era permitted dragonflies to grow to gigantic proportions.
Dragonflies are an old insect species that has existed for almost 300 million years. A dragonfly’s life cycle is fascinating since it goes through two stages. Many factors influence how long a dragonfly lives, including the species, the weather, and whether or not predators in the area are likely to consume them.
There are around 5000 dragonfly species in the globe, according to estimates. You may have heard that dragonflies only live for a day; however, this is not true. As an adult, most species live for up to six months. However, some dragonfly species spend years as larvae or nymphs before becoming mature adults.
In our guide, you can learn more about how long do dragonflies live for as it can be much more than you have heard. By the end, you’ll see that the dragonfly lifespan 24 hours, where the insect live for a day, is nothing more than a myth, and the adult insects live much longer. (Find the Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellent Device)
How Long Do Dragonflies Live?
Most dragonflies go through two phases of development and only live for a few months as fully-fledged adults.
The youngsters, called nymphs of most dragonfly species, can survive for four years. They will grow slowly throughout this phase, and as they become larger, they will molt their skin.
They can shed their skin up to seventeen times throughout the dragonfly life span. Finally, the nymph will mature into an adult once it has grown sufficiently. As mature dragonflies, most dragonfly species only live for three to six months.
The lifecycle of the dragonfly begins with an adult female who will lay eggs after breeding. The female dragonfly will lay her eggs in a damp spot near still water or in an area likely to flood in the future.
The Larvae Stage
The first stage of the dragonfly’s life cycle begins when most dragonflies’ eggs hatch. The dragonfly will live as a larval, or ‘nymph,’ at this stage. The nymph will spend one to four years and live underwater, depending on the species.
During this time, they feed on other insect larvae and young tadpoles, and possibly even fish or other water invertebrates.
Unlike butterflies and moths, Dragonflies do not develop into chrysalises and then emerge to start the adult stage. Instead of pupating, the immature nymph migrates from the aquatic environment to the riverside, hanging from a branch or stream to dry in the sun. The nymph then changes into a dragonfly after undergoing metamorphosis, where the small insects begin their adult life. (Find the Best Pet Friendly Ant Killers)
Here are some types of dragonfly you may come across.
- Damselfly Blue
- Red Dragonfly
- Green Darner Dragonfly
Dragonfly Adult Stage
The newly emerging adult dragonfly waits in the sunlight for a few hours after transformation into a dragonfly to strengthen and dry its wings. The dragonfly is known as a general at this stage, a Latin word that means fragile and soft. The dragonfly is susceptible to predators and can even be eaten by fellow dragonfly nymphs during this stage. Many dragonflies perish at this stage due to being hit by a boat or being blown around by the wind.
When the dragonfly is strong enough to fly, it will be safer and more dangerous. Birds, lizards, frogs, and even fish may devour the baby dragonflies at this time. However, they are generally adept at self-defense, have exceptional vision, and fly swiftly, helping them adapt and flee predators.
Dragonflies are fast and reside near water, where they eat other flying insects like mosquitos. Some larger dragonfly species will even pray on damselflies. Adult dragonflies live for three to six months, enough time to mate and lay eggs.
Many factors influence a dragonfly’s lifespan; for example, if the weather is pleasant, they are more likely to live to adulthood. Rain and strong winds can harm dragonflies, which prefer warm, dry weather. However, they can live for up to six months if the weather cooperates.
Dragonflies will not survive long in cold, damp, and windy weather and will reproduce and die within a few weeks. A dragonfly dying in old age is remarkable. Predators will consume the majority of them, or they will perish due to extreme weather conditions.
- The adult dragonfly climbs out of the water near the conclusion of its larval stage. Its exoskeleton cracks open, and the four wings emerge, drying and hardening over several hours to days.
- Dragonflies are accomplished flyers and can fly straight up and down, hover like a helicopter, and mate during flight. Engineers have for years tried to replicate the wing movements.
- They starve if they can’t fly since they only eat other insects and catch insect prey while flying.
- Dragonflies eat insects by grabbing them with their feet.
- Adult dragonflies can live for as little as a few weeks or as long as a year.
- Because the dragonfly’s head is almost entirely made up of eyes, they have exceptional eyesight except directly behind them.
- One single dragonfly can consume anywhere from 30 to hundreds of mosquitos in a single day.
- Hundreds of dragonfly species form swarms for feeding or migration.
- Scientists fixed small transmitters to the wings of migrating dragonflies. The Green Darner from New Jersey only traveled every third day and averaged 7.5 miles per day, although one dragonfly traveled 100 miles in one day.
- The globe skinner dragonfly boasts the greatest migratory of any insect, traveling 11,000 kilometers back and forth across the Indian Ocean.
What Is The Difference Between Dragonflies and Damselflies?
Dragonflies and damselflies are Odonata, which means “toothed jaw” in Greek. While they are commonly referred to as “dragonflies,” there are two sub-orders.
Damselflies are Zygoptera (meaning “pair-winged” or “equal-winged”) insects. Smaller, more rounded wings. They are little, weak-flying insects that live near the water’s edge or surface.
Most species fold their wings back along their belly when resting. The eyes never meet. The larvae have external gills (lamellae) at the end of their abdomens.
Dragonflies are Anisoptera which means “unequal-winged” insects. Their rear wings are usually shorter and wider than their forewings. They are huge, strong-flying insects found far from water. Their wings are at right angles to their bodies when resting. The eyes are enormous and usually touch.
Do Dragonflies Bite?
No, although giant dragonflies will try to bite if held in hand, they will not be able to break the skin. Even though they have names like “Horse-stinger,” they don’t actually sting with their egg-laying tube (ovipositor). Despite being formidable predators of other flying insects, they also do not attack people. (Learn How To Get Rid Of Crickets In Basement)
How long do Dragonflies live?
A dragonfly’s normal life cycle is around 6 months long, from egg to adult death. However, some larger dragonflies might take up to seven years to mature!
Most of this time is spent as a larva below the water’s surface, catching other invertebrates. After that, the little damselflies live as free-flying adults for a few weeks. In their flying stage, larger dragonflies can live for four months.
In the United Kingdom, lucky Damsel adults seldom last more than two weeks, while Dragons rarely last over two months. Most Damsels only stay for a week or two, while Dragons stay for two or three weeks. They perish from accidents and predation, as well as malnutrition, as neither they nor their prey can fly in bad weather.
What is the biggest & smallest dragonfly?
Dragonflies in the United Kingdom grow to be about 85 mm long with a 120 mm wingspan. This is the size of the Emperor and Brown Hawker dragonflies, which are larger “Hawker” dragonflies.
Damselflies, dragonflies’ smaller and weaker flying relatives, are substantially smaller. The Demoiselles is the largest in the UK. The body length is around 50 mm, while the wingspan is around 60 mm.
The Central American Megaloprepus coerulatus has the largest wingspan of any extant dragonfly, at roughly 19 cm.
This damselfly has a long abdomen and is slender. Petalura ingentissima (female wingspan of roughly 16 cm), a central African Anax species, or a reported but uncollected aeshnid from Borneo, could be the bulkiest dragonfly.
The Scarlet Dwarf Nannophya pygmaea from East Asia, including Malaysia and Japan, maybe the tiniest insect world dragonfly. This species is only 15 mm long and has a 20 mm wingspan as a newly emerged adult.
Dragonflies were once far more significant, the largest flying insects on the planet. The Permian Meganeuropsis Permian was the most prominent member of the extinct Protodonata, with a reconstructed wingspan of roughly 70-75 cm (based on pieces, scaled to complete remains of related species).
Aquatic dragonfly nymph have six legs, huge eyes, and little wing buds on the back of the thorax. The rectum has gills (unlike damselflies, which extend from the hind end like three leaflike tails). Their hind end draws water in and out. The animal can move swiftly by violently expelling water. The lower jaw is scooped and covers much of the head’s bottom.
It has a strong body and two wings typically spread horizontally. Wings are membranous and veined. The hindwing base is broader than the forewing. The eyes are enormous, complex, and practically cover the head. They have short antennae, and legs are less useful for walking but beneficial for perching.
What is the lifecycle of the dragonfly?
Egg (typically placed beneath water), Larva (free-moving, water-dwelling nymph), and Adult are the three stages of the life cycle.
The larva lives underwater for several weeks (or years, depending on the species) and goes through a series of molts as it develops.
It emerges from the water when it is ready to complete its last molt, in which the “skin” splits to release the winged adult, much like a Butterfly or Moth does when it emerges from its pupa.
What do Dragonflies eat?
Adult dragonflies prey on other flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes. Dragonflies are voracious predators and eat butterflies, moths, and smaller dragonflies. One Asian species is known as it takes spiders from their webs!
The larval form lives in water for a few months and eats practically anything alive that is smaller than themselves. Larger dragonfly larvae can catch and eat small fish or fry. However, they usually eat bloodworms or other aquatic insect larvae.
Will Dragonflies control mosquitoes?
Dragonflies devour many other insects and eat mosquitoes but using them to manage pests is impractical. However, several studies have shown that dragonflies or their larvae can control pest numbers in highly confined and closely controlled conditions.
In the open, there’s no reason to think dragonflies will stay in a pest-infested area. They won’t if the setting doesn’t fit them.
So, to entice Dragonflies to prey on pests, you need to create a habitat that is suited for them.
What enemies do Dragonflies have?
Adult dragonflies and damselflies are eaten by birds, spiders, frogs, and larger dragonfly species. In addition, foraging Kingfishers and other aquatic invertebrates feed on the larvae of Kingfishers. (Learn How To Get Rid Of Yellow Jacket Nest In Eaves)
Their good eyesight and flying skills can help them avoid capture. In addition, the universal warning coloration black and yellow or black and red may repel some bird predators.