Wilfredor at Wikipedia Dragonflies are ideal hunting machines. More than 80 percent of their brain is used for processing visual information, and it is believed that some species can see objects up to 30 feet away and detect movement as far as 60 feet away.
And how do they direct these tremendous talents? Dragonflies hunt, and eat, a lot: They consume 10 percent to 15 percent of their own weight per day on insects such as mosquitoes, termites, deerflies, blackflies, horseflies and midges. They make welcome residents in the yard, as they’ll keep it far less buggy. Think of it as the insect equivalent of getting a cat to solve your mouse problem.
If you want to attract dragonflies to your yard, the best lure is a body of water. Dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, where their young hatch and develop into nymphs. They live underwater for months and sometimes years before emerging as adults. But even as nymphs, they are voracious eaters, happily dining on mosquito larvae and other underwater creatures.
To bring in the dragonflies, you can either create a pond or make sure that the bodies of water near your property are dragonfly-friendly.
A pond doesn’t need to be large, nor does it require a filter, but it does need several key features. It should be located in an area that is protected from wind but will get five or six hours of midday sun.
The depth should vary from very shallow at the edges to about 2 feet at its deepest level. A pond that is too shallow can overheat or dry up, and the deep areas provide refuge from predators like our dragonflies.
Put plants in and around the pond. Plants, both submerged and floating, add oxygen to the water and remove carbon dioxide. They provide hiding and resting places for nymphs and are used as incubation chambers, because some species insert their eggs into the soft stems.
Tall plants that stick out of the water provide places for adult dragonflies to perch and scan for food or mates. They also allow a place for the nymphs to climb up to undergo their transformation process from nymph to adult. Dragonflies must pump up their wings before they can be effective fliers, but they emerge with soft bodies. It takes several days before the wings harden completely and take on the colors of an adult dragonfly.
What you plant around the pond is also important. Dragonflies like to find an elevated perch from which they can keep an eye on their favorite feeding and breeding spots. They are aggressively territorial and will chase away or even do battle with their competitors. If you prefer, you can plant ordinary bamboo stakes near the pond. The insects will also appreciate a few flat rocks placed near the pond’s edge, as rocks provide surfaces to bask in the sun.
If you want a pond that supports breeding populations of dragonflies, don’t introduce fish, frogs, or ducks. These creatures will prey on the nymphs and eggs. And of course, keep all poisons and fertilizers out of the water.
Experts say that about 15 percent of North America’s dragonfly species are in danger of extinction. Attracting dragonflies to your yard helps you do your part to protect these beneficial bug-zappers while cutting down on the bugs that really bug you.
- Tips For Attracting Dragonflies – What Plants Attract Dragonflies To Gardens
- Dragonfly Information
- How to Attract Dragonflies
- What Plants Attract Dragonflies?
- The Dragonfly Life Cycle
- The Adult Dragonfly Stage
- Dragonfly Life Cycle and Biology Links
- 4 Natural Ways to Attract Dragonflies for Mosquito Control
- How to Attract Mosquito Hawks to YOUR Landscape
- Dragonfly Facts
- Dragonfly FAQ
Tips For Attracting Dragonflies – What Plants Attract Dragonflies To Gardens
Dragonflies, one of the oldest known insects, are attracted to boggy, wet areas and are often found hanging around garden ponds and fountains. These beneficial creatures can be an asset to the garden, keeping menacing insects to a minimum. Keep reading to learn what plants attract dragonflies so you can invite these helpful insects to your garden area.
Dragonflies in the garden are harmless to people and do not sting or bite. They are elegant insects that keep the fly and mosquito population in check. They consume their own body weight in bugs each half-hour, so having a few of these beautiful winged creatures around is a great help to outdoor enthusiasts.
Attracting dragonflies to the garden can greatly decrease the number of pesky insects in the area. Able to fly at speeds up to thirty miles per hour, dragonflies can easily avoid predators like frogs and birds. Their large, compound eyes help them catch their prey in mid-air without missing a beat.
Female dragonflies lay their eggs in muddy or wet areas. Nymphs hatch in about three weeks and will live in the water for almost two years. Dragonflies are very sensitive to air pollution, so if
you have a large number of dragonflies, it may be a good indication that your air quality is good.
How to Attract Dragonflies
When attracting dragonflies to the garden, experts recommend installing a pond that is at least twenty feet in diameter. A pond of this size will support all stages of dragonfly development. A depth of 2 feet with shallow, sloping sides allows a place to plant water-loving vegetation. The pond is best if positioned in a sunny location. Don’t put fish in your pond, as they feed on nymphs and will hinder your efforts to support the dragonfly population.
In addition to a pond, you can implement a small bog or rain garden, especially if you have areas of the yard with poor drainage that are prone to standing water. You can also install several 3-foot stakes, about 6 feet apart throughout your garden. The winged beauties will land on these stakes, using them as a perch. Avoid using any pesticides or bug zappers in your garden.
What Plants Attract Dragonflies?
A wide variety of plants is best to support a thriving dragonfly population.
Submerged vegetation such as dwarf sagittaria, which grows well in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, is a great option as it provides a place for nymphs to rest and seek food.
Floating plants that are not rooted under the water are also necessary for any dragonfly habitat. Females will lay their eggs on the underside of the plant or on the stems. The Western water lily is hardy in zones 10 and 11 and fanworts, which will grow in zones 6 through 11, are attractive options.
Emergent plants are those that are rooted on the bottom of ponds but have stems and leaves that rise out of the water. Dragonflies love these plants because they use them during both nymph and adult stages. Water horsetail grows well in zones 4 through 11 and is a lovely dark green emergent plant that has a hollow stem with a few branches.
Shoreline plants also provide adult dragonflies with a place to hide and hunt. Also known as marsh plants, shoreline plants thrive in moist soil and include such plants as arrowhead, in zones 4 through 10, and the popular cattail, which thrives in zones 2 through 11.
Dragonflies are often called “mosquito hawks” and are mosquitoes biggest predators. Dragonflies and damselflies are important insects to help balance your outdoor ecosystem. In the spring and summer, mosquitoes can become quite the nuisance in the backyard, making it hard to spend time outside and in the garden. Instead of using insecticides, you can turn your pond into a dragonfly haven and curb your mosquito population naturally. Find out how to create a pond that attracts dragonflies into your yard.
These insects come in different shape, sizes, and colors. Like butterflies, they’re relaxing to watch zip about your yard. While they may look aggressive as they speed around munching mosquitoes, they’re harmless to people and pets. Dragonflies and damselflies do not sting or bite. These bugs have a healthy appetite, feasting on not just pesky mosquitoes but also flies like horseflies, deer flies, and gnats. Read more about how to prevent mosquitoes in your pond.
Dragonfly Fun Facts
A single dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitoes each day. Sometimes they hunt insects in packs, calls swarms, but they can also hunt solo. Dragonflies catch their prey mid-air using their legs and forming a basket. They’re expert fliers and can zoom up and down, even hovering like a helicopter. Reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, these bugs migrate, unless you live in a warm place like Florida. They enjoy the warm weather and will fly hundreds of miles for the perfect warm spot.
The Life Cycle of Dragonflies
The best way to attract dragonflies to your lawn is to create a pond. Dragonflies lay their eggs in water or mud. Some will lay their eggs under floating plants. Dragonflies breed in late spring and summer. It takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for the eggs to hatch into nymphs. The nymph stage is the longest stage of their life. They stay in the nymph stage for anywhere from five months to two years.
The nymph stage is aquatic; they spend this part of their life entirely in the pond. Nymphs eat mosquito eggs and larvae. Submerged plants provide a place for the nymphs to hide from predators. At the end of the nymph stage, the nymphs molt and climb out of the water.
The Perfect Dragonfly Pond
While some dragonflies will lay their eggs in shallow water like in a gutter or birdbath, if there are no other options nearby, many prefer deeper water. Shallow standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. An ideal pond for a dragonfly is at least two feet deep, with shallow edges, lots of plants, around 30 percent shade, and no fish.
You can create a DIY pond that attracts dragonflies to your lawn with an in-ground or above-ground pond, or even a container fountain with a gentle water feature. The shallow edges make it easier for dragonflies to lay their eggs. Dragonflies enjoy perching on plants that grow out of the water, as they scope the area for food and potential mates. Light colored rocks around the pond create the perfect place to bask in the sun.
Fish and Fountains
Many people choose to have a second pond to attract dragonflies. A fish-filled pond is not an ideal spot for a dragonfly to lay its eggs because the fish are their predators. Many fish will eat dragonfly eggs and small nymphs. A gentle water feature like a trickling fountain or spitter are less disruptive to the surface water, but a powerful water feature can agitate the water and make it difficult to lay eggs.
Plants of all different heights are essential for dragonflies around the edge of the pond. Leaves and plants that stick out of the water are perfect for egg laying and hunting. Floating plants provide another egg-laying option for adults. Submerged plants are the perfect hiding spot of nymphs. Emergent and marginal plants help the larvae leave the water when they’re molting into adults and create a perch for the adults. Plants are also helpful for attracting other small bugs for dragonflies to feed on. Ideally, a dragonfly pond should have a diverse selection of native plants in and around the pond for local bugs.
Dragonflies are an important insect to attract to your yard. They’re fun to watch fly and have a healthy appetite. Dragonflies feast on pesky bugs like mosquitoes, flies, and gnats. Fish may eat dragonfly eggs and nymphs, so it’s best to have a separate dragonfly pond. Powerful water features that agitate the water make it difficult for dragonflies to lay their eggs, so gentle water features are ideal for a dragonfly pond. A variety of pond plants create the perfect space for nymphs and adults and attract local bugs for the adult dragonflies to eat. A DIY dragonfly pond can be anything from an in-ground pond to a mini above ground pond.
The Dragonfly Life Cycle
The Adult Dragonfly Stage
Once the nymph is fully grown, and the weather is right, it will complete the metamorphosis into a dragonfly by crawling out of the water up the stem of a plant. The nymph will shed its skin onto the stem of the plant and will then be a young dragonfly. The skin that the nymph left behind is called the exuvia and you can find the exuvia still stuck to the stem for a long time after the dragonfly has left it.
Once the dragonfly leaves the exuvia it is a full grown dragonfly. The dragonfly will hunt for food and begin to look for a mate. Once the dragonfly finds a mate, the female will find a body of calm water that will be a good place to lay her eggs, and the life cycle of the dragonfly begins all over again. Adult dragonflies only live about two months.
Dragonfly Life Cycle and Biology Links
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4 Natural Ways to Attract Dragonflies for Mosquito Control
Dragonflies can be a great asset for your garden, especially in the context of natural pest control. Here are four simple tricks to attract more dragonflies.
1. Build a Backyard Pond
Ponds are crucial for dragonflies. Did you know that dragonflies spend as much as 95% of their life cycle under water? This document by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership provides some great guidelines on constructing dragonfly ponds.
For example, dragonfly ponds should have a variety of water depths (the deepest being no more than 4 feet) to provide dragonfly nymphs varying water temperature conditions. The pond should also have a variety of vegetation to provide food and shelter for the nymphs.
2. Plants that Attract Dragonflies
Plant a variety of plants around the perimeter of the yard and in the pond. The pond should have aquatic foliage like water iris and purple loosestrife that provides a passage for dragonfly nymphs to emerge from the water. You should also include submerged plants, such as wild celery, for adult dragonflies to easily deposit their eggs on.
3. Build a Water Feature
You could build or place a simple water feature, such as a garden fountain, if a pond isn’t an option for your yard. Place the fountain in a galvanized tub to provide the dragonfly nymphs ample space. Don’t forget to place a variety of rocks and aquatic plants to hasten their appearance.
4. Stop Using Pesticide
Pesticide doesn’t discriminate between good and bad insects. The likelihood of maintaining a dragonfly garden will be reduced drastically once pesticide is applied to the area.
The pesticide may also make its way to the pond and affect the aquatic organisms such as the dragonfly nymphs. Adult dragonflies aren’t the only contributors to natural pest control. The nymphs also play their part by eating the mosquito larvae in the water.
Sam Choan is the Founder of Organic Lesson. He started this site to share tips on using natural remedies at home when such options are available.
How to Attract Mosquito Hawks to YOUR Landscape
Q. This isn’t really a gardening question, but I’m curious about dragonflies. I know they’re very beneficial so I’m always glad to see them in my yard down the shore. (I call them all dragonflies, even though I believe that some of them are actually called ‘darners’.) Anyway, my question is: do the larger ones catch and eat the smaller ones?”
—Jim in Villas, New Jersey
A. Excellent! Another opportunity for me to play ‘Amateur Entomologist’! And while Jim is right about this not being a specific garden question, it does fall under another of our specialties—natural control of truly troublesome pests; in this case, mosquitoes!
That’s right—in addition to being very cool-looking, this specific group of insects is very important to our well-being, as they prey on the dangerous day-flying disease-carrying mosquitoes that are one of our newest imported threats. (Hey—and since these Typhoid Maries bite during the day—when we’re outside innocently sowing our salad greens—maybe this IS a ‘garden question’ after all!)
Anyway, dragonflies are one of the biggest predators of mosquitoes. Many birds are also effective (and can be attracted to eat your skeeters with nesting boxes designed for swallows and martins and such), but a large adult dragonfly can eat twice its own weight in mosquitoes in a single hour—that’s why one of their common names is “Mosquito Hawk”. They curl their legs into the shape of a basket and scoop up mosquitoes, flies and biting midges by the dozens. One of my favorite real entomologists, Dr. Linda Gilkeson, says that researchers have found up to 100 mosquitoes in the ‘basket’ of a captured dragonfly.
And their larval forms keep mosquitoes down in advance. In one of the most astounding examples of insect metamorphous, dragonfly and damselfly eggs hatch into voracious little underwater predators whose diet includes lots and lots of mosquito larvae. And some species are so big at this stage that they eat small fish!
Now: what’s the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly? And what about ‘darners’?
In general, ‘dragonflies’ are larger and much better fliers than the smaller damselfly. And again, in general, the eyes of dragonflies are much closer together than those of damselflies. Together, they make up the entire order of insects known as “Odonata”, which comes from the Greek word for ‘tooth’. ‘Darner’ refers to a ‘family’ of several species that includes some of the biggest, most abundant dragonflies in North America. The best known is probably the ‘Green Darner’ (who sounds a little like a DC Super-Hero: Green Lantern. Green Arrow; and now—the Green Darner!)
Although these are likely the ones people first called ‘the Devil’s Darning Needle’, I think that term has become generic to any big dragonfly; it refers to the endless folk tales about the fearsome-looking insects sewing things together and attacking humans and livestock. The ‘darning’ part almost certainly came about because of their sewing needle shape. And the ‘attack stories’ probably came about because their size scared people—and especially because people realized that Grimm Fairy Tale-style stories about them would really scare children. My German grandmother used to terrify us with warnings that darners would try and sew our lips together.
Anyway: Back to the actual question—’DO the big ones eat the little ones’?
Yes. My “Field Guide to Insects of North America” (which calls damselflies “the kid sisters of the dragonfly”) says that the “Dragon hunter”, a dragonfly in what they call the ‘clubtail’ family is “a fearsome beast that specializes in eating other dragonflies.” (The Field Guide breaks the dragonfly ‘families’ down into darners, clubtails, petaltails, emeralds, cruisers, spiketails, skimmers, pondhawks and meadowhawks. It considers damselflies to belong to their own ‘suborder’ of around 130 species.)
But the most important fact here is that all—or mostly all—of these insects eat large numbers of mosquitoes, flies and other pests. As you may have guessed, that’s why I picked this question—to entice you to attract these beneficial “mosquito hawks” to your property. Heck—pull in lots of skeeter eating birds and dragonflies and set out traps of standing water baited with BTI and you may never donate blood unwantedly again!
And of course, the most important aspect of attracting either birds or dragonflies is to not kill them with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. As with equally beneficial frogs and toads, larval dragonflies breed in water (some dragonfly ‘babies’ spend five years as underwater predators before becoming flying adults!) and the use of senseless and unnecessary lawn and garden chemicals is a dagger through their collective hearts. In fact, the presence or absence of the underwater stage of some species is used to judge how polluted that specific body of water is.
So now you have yet another reason to get your lawn and landscape off drugs and onto things like corn gluten meal, compost and worm castings.
Ah, but there are also ways to specifically attract dragonflies to eat YOUR mosquitoes. Dr. Gilkeson says that you can entice them with perches—narrow upright stakes that extend well above any plants in the area. She has found that bamboo poles placed in a kind of zig-zag pattern about three to four feet high are the best attractors.
Position your perches where they’ll be in full sun at the middle of the day, when dragonflies are most active. And the more stakes the merrier. Dr. Gilkeson says that there’s a dragonfly at the top of every one of her perches on most summer days, each one “looking like a bright jewel on the head of a pin.”
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Dragonflies are some of the best predators to keep mosquito populations low. I’ll show you how to attract these beneficial insects to your yard. Not only do they scavenge the skies in adulthood, but they eat large numbers of mosquito larvae in their larval form in the water.
Did you know … adult dragonflies can eat up to 100, if not many more, mosquitoes per day!
These insects are not harmful, indeed they are grouped into the category of “good insects,” and they eat the “bad” insect pests.
A Little About the Dragonfly Stages
The lifespan of a dragonfly is found to consist of two distinct stages. After breeding the female dragonfly will lay her eggs on or near water or in a place that will fill with water. Once the eggs have hatched the first stage in their lifestyle can begin.
At this stage, it is an aquatic larvae, also called a ‘nymph‘. This stage will generally last between one and three years.
Once the nymph is fully grown, and the weather is right, it will complete the metamorphosis into a dragonfly by crawling out of the water up the stem of a plant. The nymph will shed its skin onto the stem of the plant and will then be a young dragonfly.
While building a backyard pond is the best way to attract dragonflies as they mate and lay their eggs in water, you can still attract dragonflies through other means. Planting flowers that attract prey for dragonflies will bring them to your garden indirectly.
“I love to see the sunshine on the wings of the Dragonflies… there is magic in it.”
― Ama H.Vanniarachchy
Here are seven plants you can easily grow to attract dragonflies into your garden:
1. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) This is one of many native milkweeds that are a must for the butterfly, dragonfly, and pollinator enthusiast! Swamp milkweed prefers consistently moist soil, but performs well in average soil. Monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of the narrow pointed leaves.
2. Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) These hardy and easy to grow plants prefer sun, but can be very happy in partial shade.
The flower heads are either rounded or flattened clusters with masses of tiny flowers that are a magnet for dragonflies and other beneficial insects. They reseed easily so if you don’t want them to spread, you can deadhead and divide them every few years to control the growth.
3. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) The daisy-like blooms are vigorous, well-flowered and showy … beloved by generations of gardeners to provide long bloom time and excellent cut flowers. Pair with Russian Sage for low maintenance and a pretty splash of color in the garden. Attracts birds and butterflies to your yard.
4. Meadow Sage (Salvia marcus) These are tough plants that are virtually pest and disease free and ideal for hot, sunny, dry areas. Depending on the variety, the flower spikes come in shades of pink, blue, white or purple. Polliantors, butterflies, and hummingbirds love the salvia family of flowers!
5. Yarrow (Achillea) Yarrow are good ‘ol fashioned long-blooming garden staples that are extremely easy to grow. The ferny, silvery foliage is quite aromatic and the flowerheads can be dried for use in arrangements.
The flowers are available in a variety of colors (I have yellow and apricot types in my garden). An important nectar source for butterflies and other pollinators.
6. Borage (Borago officinalis) Its blue star-shaped flowers appear in summer and last until first frost. It’s a drought-tolerant, native herb that is self-seeding. Having a fresh cucumber flavor … the young spring foliage can be chopped and added to salads, yogurt and soft cheese. Yum!
7. Coneflowers (Echinacea) A perennial garden favorite, coneflowers are dependable, showy, and low maintenance. They have daisy-like flowers with a prominent raised cone and come in a variety of colors from yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, burgundy and white. Loved by butterflies and good for cutting.
Incorporating a pond into your backyard is also a good idea if you want dragonflies to return to your side of the neighborhood.
Dragonflies spend two months to several years underwater, and water is a place they will return to time and time again. If you provide water, dragonflies will come to hunt, reproduce, perch, and play.
Water-dwelling plants will help welcome dragonflies to your garden. We recently visited several botanical gardens in the Rockford, IL and Janesville, WI areas and the dragonflies were plentiful around the pond areas. A beautiful sight to see! Also, I did not spot one mosquito … even after recent heavy rains.
Here are five water-loving plants you can grow to attract more dragonflies to your yard:
1. Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) Duck-potato or arrowhead is a colony-forming, aquatic perennial. Flowers have showy, white petals and are arranged in a whorled fashion. The plant was once an important source of food for Native Americans.
2. Wild Celery (Vallisneria americana) Wild celery, a submersed water plant, is native in most of the United States, including zone 5 & 6. It’s one of the most important foods for waterfowl. Ducks especially consume the leaves, roots, tubers, and seeds of the plant.
3. Water Lily (Nymphaea) Water lilies can be grown in a tub on the patio or in ponds of any size. They grow from tubers planted in pots beneath the water and send up stems with rounded leaves and star-shaped blossoms that float on the surface. These flowers are as tough as they are beautiful.
4. Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) Horsetails are allies of ferns. The Water Horsetail is quite common in swamps and wet areas. They lack flowers and regular leaves. They contain a thick, dark green (fairly hollow) stem. The plant provides habitat for pond life and was used historically for scouring, sanding and filing because of the high silica content in the stems.
5. Pickerel Rush (Pontederia cordata) This plant has showy violet blooms. The leaves are also unique because they have a glossy finish to them. The Pickerel Rush plant can grow in water up to three feet deep. The stalks of the flowers function as a home for many beneficial insects.
Importance of Rocks for Dragonflies
You should also provide rocks around the pond, and around your garden in general, to make your yard more appealing to dragonflies. Rocks provide hiding place for dragonfly larvae as they grow and develop under water.
Dragonflies like to sun themselves, and the warmth of flat rocks provides the perfect setting. Try a mix of light and dark rocks and observe which color attracts more dragonflies to your area.
While you’re waiting for plants to grow tall enough for dragonflies to perch on, you can place sticks around your pond. This will give them somewhere to land and take a rest. You can use sticks from nearby trees, or bamboo stakes for plants and vegetables.
For more information on creating a dragonfly friendly backyard pond and garden, go to this interesting article: How To Create a Dragonfly Garden.
Fun fact: To distinguish between dragonflies and damselflies, think of an analogy to moths and butterflies.
Dragonflies rest with their wings open, like moths, and damselflies hold their wings closed together, as butterflies do.
Invite graceful dragonflies to your garden by planting some of my twelve suggested plants above. These interesting and beneficial insects are terrific helpers to keep mosquito populations low!
We hope you found this post about inviting dragonflies to your garden as mosquito control useful. Let us know your thoughts and how you make your yard dragonfly friendly by visiting our contact page …
About The Author
Helping gardeners in Zone 5b (west suburban Chicago area) for over 30 years! During that time I’ve become a “go to” person among friends and family for practical, straightforward gardening advice. A long time friend dubbed me “Flower Chick” many years ago and the nickname stuck!
Here are some common questions about dragonflies:
What do dragonflies eat? Adult dragonflies mostly eat other flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes. They also will take butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies. The larvae, which live in water, eat almost any living thing smaller than themselves. Larger dragonfly larvae sometimes eat small fish or fry. Usually they eat bloodworms or other aquatic insect larvae. Read more about dragonfly feeding behavior > How do dragonflies mate? Romance and courting have no place in the dragonfly mating ritual. In fact, it is a bit violent and somewhat unsettling. However, dragonflies must be doing something right, as they have existed for over 300 million years. Read more about dragonfly mating > How fast can a dragonfly fly? It is estimated that the top speed for a dragonfly is between 36 and 54 km/h (22 to 34 m.p.h.). The maximum speed varies a lot between different species, with bigger dragonflies generally flying faster than smaller ones. Read more about dragonfly flight > How fast do they beat their wings? Not fast, about 30 times per second (compared to bees, for example, at 300 beats per second). However, dragonflies have two sets of wings, so they don’t have to beat them so fast. Read more about dragonfly wings > What is the life cycle of a dragonfly? Dragonflies embark on a fasinating journey from the egg stage to the adult stage. Learn more about this transformative process that has withstood the test of time, 300 million years and counting! What is the origin of the word “dragonfly”? The origin of the English term “dragonfly” is believed to come from the Romanian language where the word for dragonfly translates to Devil’s Horse or Devil’s fly. The word drac, from the Latin draco, means “dragon” or “devil” in several languages, such as Catalan and Romanian. So the Romanian Devil’s fly has become dragonfly in English! Learn more about some really cool dragonfly symbolism in Europe and Japan. The legends and folktails will surprise you! How many kinds of dragonflies and damselflies are there? Currently about 5000 species of dragonflies and damselflies are known; experts guess that there are probably between 5500 and 6500 species in total. How long do they live? Most temperate-zone species live as adults less than a month, though some species can live as long as six months. Check out our dragonfly life cycle article for more information. What enemies do dragonflies and damselflies have? Birds, spiders, frogs, larger dragonflies. In the larval stage, they are preyed on by fish, frogs, toads and newts, and other water invertebrates. How can I tell a dragonfly from a damselfly? Damselflies are usually slim, their forewings and hindwings narrow at the base and have similar shapes, and their eyes are widely separated. Most species hold their wings above the abdomen when they are resting. Dragonflies are larger. Their eyes touch near the top of their head. The wings do not narrow at the base; the forewings and hindwings differ in shape. When they are resting, the wings are usually spread. What are the biggest dragonfly and damselfly? The Megaloprepus coerulatus damselfly of Central America has a wingspan up to 19 cm. The bulkiest known dragonfly is Petalura ingentissima from Australia, with a wingspan up to 16 cm. Extinct fossil dragonflies with wingspans up to 70-75 cm have been identified. What is the smallest dragonfly? Several dragonflies in the genus Agriocnemis have a wingspan of just 17-18 mm. (7/10 inch). How strong are their eyes? A dragonfly can see all the way around itself, because its eyes have about 30,000 lenses. However, the human eye with only one lense can see more sharply, though only front and sides. How long have dragonflies been around? About 300 million years. Huge dragonflies, with wing spans up to 30 inches, were flying when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Where do dragonflies live? Dragonflies start their life in water, therefore they are often found near water: ponds, lakes, canals, streams, rivers and swamps. Some dragonflies with a short larvae cycle (a few weeks) also can live in rain puddles. Since dragonflies are very good flyers they can sometimes be found a very long way from water. Do dragonflies bite? The quick, rational answer to this question is NO, don’t worry about it. Just appreciate how many mosquitoes they eat for us! Dragonflies do not have teeth – they use their very strong mandibles to eat their prey. To the insect world, they are considered verocious predators, but most species would not be able to break through human skin. Dragonflies are not aggressive towards humans. Just like any other animal, if they feel you are trying to harm them, they may use their mandibles to try to stop you. So if a dragonfly lands on you, consider yourself lucky and just stay still while enjoying the close interaction which will inevitably be short-lived. Do dragonflies sting? Dragonflies do not have stingers; females have tiny clasps at the ends of their abdomens used in the egg-laying process. They act like tiny little blades that she uses to incise an opening in plant material in which she’ll insert her eggs. Therefore, they do not sting. However, researchers have seen that dragonflies who have been interupted during their egg-laying, continued their process into the clothing or skin of the handlers due to mistaken identity. So it is possible for a female to mistake your leg for some nice plant materials, but this is very rare. Do dragonflies migrate? Some, such as the green darner in New Jersey migrate short distances – averaging about 7-1/2 miles per day, and generally moving every third day. On the other hand, the globe skinner migrates the farthest of any insect, about 11,000 miles across the Indian Ocean. Where can I buy books, field guides, and other information about dragonflies and damselflies? Check out our online shopping guide.