Dragonflies are a classification of aquatic insects belonging to the order Odonata. They are identified by their elegant, elongated bodies, two sets of transparent wings and large, multi-faceted eyes. Depending on the species, size, colors and patterns on the body can change dramatically. The largest specimens can reach up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length. Many dragonflies are known of their bright, metallic coloration and are sometimes referred to as “flying gems.” Both colors and patterns may vary depending on the insect’s developmental stage and even the local weather. This variety makes them a favorite subject for many wildlife photographers and artists.
Although the adult form is the one most familiar, dragonflies spend most of their lives in an immature and wholly aquatic form called a nymph. Nymphs live entirely in the water, usually congregating under aquatic plants, although they can briefly move onto dry land to hunt. Like fish, they breathe through gills although on dragonflies these organs are located in the rectum. The nymph stage could last a few months or as long as five years. When the insect is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it will climb out of the water and cling to a plant stem. Exposure to fresh air will cause the animal to develop lungs and the adult body to form. Once ready, the adult will burst out of the hollow husk of the nymph’s body and pump its new wings to prepare for flight. The adult may live for up to six months, although most of this time is used to mate and lay eggs.
Dragonflies are efficient predators and can be very beneficial to people as they prey on nuisance insects such as mosquitoes.
Dragonflies are aquatic insects and can be found around lakes, streams, ponds, creeks and similar habitats all over North America.