As the weather warms up, we start to see more insects – some are a nuisance, while others are beneficial. Among said insects, dragonflies are considered beneficial. Dragonflies are in the order Odonata, which translates to “the toothed one.” This is because they are predatory insects that feed on other insects. They are known for their brilliant colors and were some of the first flying insects. Worldwide there are thousands of different species of dragonflies and approximately 300 in the U.S. Depending on the species of dragonfly, they are localized to a certain area or migrate seasonally. They will migrate based on their life cycle needs; for instance, rain and other weather factors can determine their migration.
Similar to mosquitoes, their immature stages are aquatic and look drastically different from the adults. They require fresh water for reproduction, so we typically find dragonflies flying around streams, rivers, ponds, etc. Depending on the species of dragonfly, they will lay their eggs either in the water or on nearby vegetation. Their nymphs will molt up to 15 times before they become adults and will eat and hunt in or near the water. These nymphs will eat just about anything they can acquire, including small fish.
As mentioned, dragonflies are active flyers and have incredible flying abilities. They are able to fly backward, forward and can even hover (in a similar fashion to helicopters) for short periods of time. As predators, dragonflies will eat any type of insect they can catch during flight. To give an idea of their appetites, dragonflies can eat hundreds of mosquitoes per day.
So what do they look like? The dragonfly is a bulky flying insect with a long, thick abdomen. Their eyes cover just about their entire head and possibly touch across the top of it. They have wide wings and lay them outstretched while at rest. If you see lots of dragonflies, that is a good thing! Dragonflies are an indicator that there is a species richness of both plants and animals nearby. These insects are among the good guys when it comes to insects, so enjoy them and thank them for helping with mosquito control!
Kristen Stevens, BCE