Nature lovers around the world still continue to be captivated by this eye-catching aquatic insect, the dragonfly. Belonging to the Odonata order, the dragonfly with its large bulging compound eyes, three smaller eyes known as ocelli, and two pair of sturdy multi-veined translucent wings, has lived on our earth for over 300 million years.
* Early days
The dragonfly’s early stages of life begins under water, in fresh-water ponds and waterways as larvae and will survive and grow by consuming insects, worms, tadpoles and occasionally even small fish. Sometimes referred to also, as “mud-eyes” since their coloring remains much the same as the muddy bottom itself. This aquatic stage of a dragonfly’s life is in fact the longest stage, as it progresses through a series of molts over an indefinite period, anything from several months and even up to a few years, depending on habitat resources.
* Ready to start a new life
Eventually in the nymph phase of its life, it is ready then to climb upwards along reeds or other vegetation, by breaking out of its nymph-casing to emerge as an immature dragonfly. Their body color will show much less vibrant hues than a mature adult will display, and it is at this time that they now are at risk of being taken, by predators such as fish, frogs or birds.
During the warmer months of Spring and Summer, the dragonfly is often observed darting at great speed in different tangents both backwards and forwards, as it chases and eats small insects in flight. All six legs equipped with rows of tiny spines are able to be projected forward, to reveal a rather unique technique of capturing their food source in the air. Such an intriguing transition, from their former underwater feeding habits.
* Finding a mate
When dragonflies pair up they will then establish their very own territory, near to water, and defend it intently. While the male chases away any other males, the female will chase away other females. Together they rule the air-ways above their chosen territory attentively.
Having only lived perhaps a few months and before the winter season, the female dragonfly will have laid her eggs either in the water, or onto partly submerged aquatic weeds. She will sometimes even go further below the surface to lay eggs in the mud at the bottom. Once the summer months have passed, the adult dragonfly will die, leaving the future to the eggs and larvae, to overwinter and populate the summer skies next year for a determined continuity of the species.
With a catchment-storm water area, known as a SQUID, within walking distance from our home, it is no doubt the source of the small amount of dragonfly sightings we’re lucky enough to encounter in our own garden. I’m sure this dragonfly, possibly a Golden Dragonfly, was contemplating for a moment as it rested on a Mexican Sage (Salvia Leucantha), just long enough for my husband to take a snapshot. It is one of my favorite photos and has become the very reason to do a little research, learn more, and share the wonderful life of this fascinating insect.
The Life-Story of Insects by Geo. H. Carpenter, 1913