Skip to main content

The Dragonfly - Life-cycle and habitat

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

The Dragonfly

I love photographing insects, the diversity and colour found in the insect kingdom is amazing and provides an endless source of interesting subjects to photograph. I took the photograph of a dragonfly below on the river walk in Villajoyosa.


A Dragonfly taken by the river walk in Villajoyosa

A Dragonfly taken by the river walk in Villajoyosa


Dragonflies Mating

In this hub I want to look at the life cycle of the Dragonfly and I suppose that the best place to start is at the very beginning. This is where it all begins; I took these photographs of two dragonflies mating down by the river walk in Villajoyosa.

A Pair of Dragonflies Mating


Baby Dragonflies?

I posted the above photographs on another site and in one of the comments someone said

‘I don't think I have ever seen a "baby" dragonfly!

It was then that I realised that I knew little or nothing about Dragonflies except that they looked pretty with their bright colours. So I set out to find something out about these wonderful little creatures.

The River Amadorio is actually little more than a small slow moving stream but the area is teeming with all sorts of wildlife including dragonflies.

Female dragonflies need a source of fresh water in which to lay their eggs. This is why the river walk in Villajoyosa turned out to be such a good place to find dragonflies.

The River Amadorio

Although the Amadorio is called a river it is in fact most of the time only a small slow moving stream.

Although the Amadorio is called a river it is in fact most of the time only a small slow moving stream.

Still Water at the edges of the stream

Still Water at the edges of the stream


As you can see from this hub dragonflies are found near water. This is because a female dragonfly needs freshwater in which to lay her eggs'

A female dragonfly will typically lay between one hundred and a thousand eggs in an episode depending on the species.

I found this video of a female dragonfly laying her eggs in water it is well worth watching the process as the video is of extremely good quality and the commentary is very informative. To watch the video please click on the youtube logo on the bottom righthand corner of the video and it will take you right to the video on youtube.

A Female Dragonfly Lays Her Eggs

Dragonfly Nymph

Once the eggs hatch out the dragonfly nymph begins its long journey towards adulthood. The dragonfly nymph undergoes several stages as a nymph and this process can last anything from about six months to five years depending on the species. Most of a dragonfly’s life is spent as a nymph under water.

Normally the nymph does not chase its prey instead it lays in hiding waiting for its prey to come within reach. The nymph is a squat looking dingy brown insect with six walking legs and like the adult it is to grow into it is very much a carnivore and a predator. It catches its prey by shooting out its hinged bottom lip, which has on it a set of powerful pinchers.

These pinchers located at the outer edge of the lips grasp hold of its prey and after eating the bottom lip is retracted back forming like a mask over the lower half of the nymphs face. Like the adult form it will eat just about anything it can catch its menu typically includes mosquito larvae, tadpoles, small fish, water bugs and even other dragonfly nymphs. They can devour their own body weight in one sitting they are voracious eaters.

The Nymph Moults

As the nymph grows it moults on its final moult which can be as long as five years after the egg was laid it crawls out of the water and attaches itself to something solid like a twig. In this final moult the outer skin dries and the body begins to swell forcing the skin to begin to split somewhere on its back. After a struggle the adult dragonfly begins to emerge from the husk of the nymph.

Once free of the husk it begins to pump blood into its wings inflating them to their full size during this stage the adult dragonfly is extremely vulnerable to predators as it can do nothing to escape them. It takes time for the sun to dry and harden the dragonfly’s body and wings but once this is accomplished the adult dragonfly is ready to eat and mate.

Thirty Beats a Second

After all this hard work the dragonfly usually only spends about two months as an adult dragonfly. Most dragonflies do not die of old age they mostly end up as prey themselves before they die of natural causes.

The chief predators of dragonflies are birds who pick them off much like the dragonflies do their prey by plucking them right out of the air. Fortunately not before most of them have time to mate.

There are about five thousand different species of dragonfly and of these roughly four hundred and fifty are found in America. The dragonfly belongs to order of insects known as the Odonata and this order is split into two categories Anisoptera, which are the Dragonflies and Zygoptera, which are the Damselflies.

The dragonfly has six legs and four wings that beat at around thirty beats per second and their wings do not have to beat in unison. What does this mean? It means that they are very efficient fliers with extremely good manoeuvrability.

Compare the thirty beats a second that the dragon fly needs to remain airborne to some of it prey.

Scroll to Continue

The fly for instance requires about a thousand beats of its wings per minute to keep it flying and the mosquito needs to flap its wings around six hundred times a minute. From this you can see that the prey of the dragonfly has to expend considerably more energy in order to stay in the air.

The dragonfly is amazing when flying it can hover, fly backwards, sideways and even loop the loop and is capable of changing its speed and direction in an instant. They are not only very agile in the air they are also very fast an Australian Dragonfly was recorded doing speeds of around thirty six miles per hour.

Compound Eye

The dragonfly has a compound eye that is made up by thirty thousand lenses (ommatidia) with those in the upper part of the eye looking forward being larger and more numerous. The shape of its eye enables it to see almost three hundred and sixty degrees and this makes it very easy for the dragonfly to detect the movement of its prey but it doesn’t see details very clearly.

The dragonfly can just about catch anything it sets its sight on, which is good news for us as its prey is often what we would consider pests. Mosquitoes, flies, and gnats are just a few of the pests that the dragonfly helps to keep in check.

Both as an adult dragonfly and as a nymph this creature is a killing and eating machine whose prey is mainly other insects it is a very beneficial regulator of the insect population.

The Dragonfly has Compound Eyes

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

The Dragonfly Can Eat its Own Weight in Half an Hour

The dragonfly is an impressive carnivore hunter who can eat its own body weight in just thirty minutes. When you consider the size of mosquitoes for example that is a lot of mosquitoes in a very short period of time. Just to put this in perspective this would be equivalent to you or I eating around a hundred and thirty five pounds of food in half an hour.

Normally the dragonfly will snatch its prey right out of the air using its legs to form like a basket to scoop up its prey. It does this with consummate ease as it can out fly and out manoeuvre just about all of its prey. It eats its prey while it is still in the air by ripping pieces off its captured prey chewing it. The dragonfly will eat around six hundred insects a day.

Usually the dragonfly hunts alone but dragonflies are known sometimes to hunt and feed in swarms. This happens when there is an abundance of insects such as when termites or ants swarm.

See the video below for Dragonflies swarming in a back garden of someones home. I found this video on YouTub so it is not my back garden nor is the delighful child who dances in this video my daughter, but she is a real cutie.

The Dragonfly Swarm


The dragonfly uses its legs to catch its prey and to cling to objects such as twigs and grasses while resting its legs are useless when it comes to walking.

People need not fear the dragonfly because it will not bite or sting and the only thing it might show is curiosity when it comes to people.



Thank You

Well I hope that you have enjoyed finding out a little about this wonderful creature called the dragonfly.

If you have enjoyed this Hub then you most certainly would love a sister hub to this written by Peggy W. Peggy writes in a way that is so easy to read and she draws you right into her experience.

A big thank you to those of you who got this far on this hub, I hope you enjoyed the photographs.

On Peggy's Dragonfly Hub are some excellent photographs that she has taken of the Dragonfly that visited her back garden. Do yourself a real favour and pop over to her hub and see the delightful photographs she has taken and read some of the interesting facts she has found out about dragonflies, I learned some things there that I didn't know. Here is the link to Peggy's Dragonfly Hub

Finally, I will finish off this hub by including a few more photographs that I took of the dragonflies on the river walk in Villajoyosa.



Mating Season

From the amount of mating going on in the photographs above, we should not be short of Dragonflies next season, at least I hope not as I love to photograph these striking looking insects, and I hope that you have enjoyed the photographs I have included in this hub.

Insect Based Hubs

If you enjoyed this Hub you might like my other insect based Hubs.


maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on March 13, 2013:

Thank you Luke for your comment, I am glad that my article helped in some small way, I am sorry that it didn't contain enough of the information that you were looking for

luke skywalker on March 13, 2013:

i really enjoyed the habitat part maggs it help me with my project i next time give more info about it (habitat)

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on September 14, 2012:

Thank you frogyfish for your kind comments I am so pleased that you enjoyed the hub, as you can see I am fascinated by insects and I love taking their photographs and sharing them in a hub.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on September 14, 2012:

What wonderful creatures those dragonflies are! I knew they ate lots of mosquitoes, but goodness, they eat LOTS of them. Great! Your information, pictures and the video were beautifully interesting and informative.

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on May 30, 2012:

Thank you so much for the voting up and clicking all those buttons I appreciate you doing that.

I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing the photographs, I sure enjoyed taking them.

I will be seeing you :D

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 29, 2012:

Maggs - I have learned so much about Dragonflys from this marvelous hub. I had no idea they only live 2 months of their adulthood. Your photos are absolutely amazing!

I have voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting. Now I am eager to read your other hubs on insects. Thank you so much!

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on May 21, 2011:

Hi DeBorrah thanks for your kind comments, it always gives me a lift to see your face and name in my comments. Thanks for stopping by I appreciate it very much :)

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on May 19, 2011:

Maggs, Fascinating & informative, great photographs! What an interesting creature! The dragonfly looks like a mini helicopter! What amazing vision they have... Very educational! Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on May 16, 2011:

It was my pleasure, I will look in on you soon and thank you once again :)

dotty1 from In my world on May 10, 2011:

Aw they were fantastic photographs and yet another brilliant hub from you ..I will always appreciate the help you gave me when I first came onto Hub pages xx

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on May 09, 2011:

Hi Dotty, thank you so much for your kind comments, it made my day. I am so pleased that you enjoyed the photographs :)

dotty1 from In my world on May 07, 2011:

Hello maggs224 I do hope that you are well... I loved this hub the photographs are amazing and I sat reading it my son who was in awe. Amazing creatures :)

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on March 12, 2011:

Hi James thanks for your kind words. I find that if you take a closer look at almost anything that God has created it turns out to be awesome. You are right for some thing so small 36mph is an awesome speed to be able to fly at.

James A Watkins from Chicago on March 05, 2011:

I have always enjoyed the flight of the dragonfly. Your photographs of them are beautiful.

Your article is excellent and educative. 36 MPH? Awesome!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 05, 2011:

Linking your hub to mine now! :-)

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on February 05, 2011:

Hi Peggy, I think we do like the same things :) The little girl in the video is a real cutie, but the video is not mine it is one I found on YouTube which just illustrated what a small swarm of dragonflies would look like.

Your comment made me realise I didn't state that in the hub I shall have to put that right. All the photographs however, except the one that I acknowledged are mine.

I couldn’t get up close enough to get that kind of shot of the eye :(

I shall link this page to yours I am sure that folks would really enjoy seeing your great photos.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 05, 2011:

We must like the same things! (You know what they say about great minds! Haha!) I wrote one about the dragonfly visiting our backyard. It let me get amazingly close to it to take pictures from all angles. Your youtube video of them swarming was amazing to see. Your little girl is such a cutie! Shall we link these hubs also?

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on December 14, 2010:

Hi Kimberly I am so glad that you enjoyed the Hub :) Thank you so much for your kind comment it made my day.

kimberlyslyrics on December 07, 2010:

Maggs, truthfully, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this. Most certainly never thought I would. Just really happy to be here and thanks for this awesome piece


maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on November 24, 2010:

Hi DjBryle, I am so glad that you enjoyed the hub, as for you not realising that the lives of dragonflies were so complicated neither did I until I took these photographs and started to read up about them.

DjBryle from Somewhere in the LINES of your MIND, and HOPEFULLY at the RIPPLES of your HEART. =) on November 22, 2010:

Hey, I love this hub. Makes me realize that even the life of dragonflies can be as complicated as humans... lol! Thanks for sharing! =)

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on October 24, 2010:

Hi Dusty,

Thanks for your wonderful comments, as always they are a real joy to read. My son rides a motorcycle and he has also told me how painful it can be to be hit by a fast flying insect especially one the size of a grasshopper. I didn’t realise that butterflies swarm, I will have to go and have a look on YouTube to see if anyone has posted a video of butterflies swarming. I should imagine it would be quite a sight to watch, sorry that it causes such a mess for you to clean off your car windscreen though. : (

I am sorry that it has taken me so long to reply to your comment but part of it is your fault you always write such interesting comments, which send me off in search for more, not that I am complaining you provide me with much needed inspiration. thanks love maggs

50 Caliber from Arizona on October 18, 2010:

Maggs, you have again knocked the ball out of the park! I voted you up on this as it is a great and quite original topic. Here in Arizona we get the swarming around the irrigation canals and as a motorcycle pilot I have been blasted by the amount of them as at 60 miles an hour can be a little painful, and make one stop and clean his glasses. I've got the taste of a few as they were hit by my lips. The only thing worse is the large grasshoppers with the hard outer skeleton, they can leave one looking as if you were punched in the mouth. I find it fun to watch the different swarms of insects and the power of them during different years. I don't know what makes the so prominent in one years and other years few are seen. I've experienced it with dragon flies, grass hoppers and yellow butterflies and the butterflies have been the worst, I've had to stop and scrub the windshield so I could see through it while driving the roads around the farming fields as they were literally clouds of them and the hot dry weather dries their remains quickly to your car or shirt if on a motorcycle, making them hard to get off.

Anyway, back on topic, thank you for such a fine read on a topic that made me reflect on how much I don't know about the things in my back yard, so until I know all of that, why would going to the moon seem such a great feat while we haven't captured the knowledge of things at or around our homes?, Peace,Love and Blessings, Dusty

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on October 12, 2010:

Hi Hello, I am glad that you have enjoyed the Hub and the photographs. I think that nearly everything is bigger over in the States Lol… Thanks so much for leaving a comment :)

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on October 12, 2010:

Hi lifegate, like you until I took these photographs of dragonflies last week I never really thought about dragonflies either.

I am glad that you found it interesting, I must admit I found doing the research for this hub really interesting. Thanks for the comment:)

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on October 12, 2010:

Hi alekhouse, Glad that you enjoyed the Hub and the photos. There are so many interesting looking critters among the insect population. Thanks for leaving a comment I appreciate you doing that.

maggs224 (author) from Sunny Spain on October 12, 2010:

Hi Tom, I am glad that you liked the photos, I knew next to nothing about the dragonfly until I started doing some research for this hub.

I would have loved to see the bright red one that you saw in Maine especially if I had a camera in my hand Lol…. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment I really appreciate you doing that.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 12, 2010:

That is a wonderful hub you have written there. I learned so much from it. You are photos were great. Am I right that on the video they seemed to be bigger than over here? Fascinating read.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on October 11, 2010:


Thanks for the information. I have to admit. I never really thought about dragonflies before, but it was all very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on October 11, 2010:

Wow! This is so interesting. And the photos really add a lot. I enjoyed this. Thanks.

justom from 41042 on October 10, 2010:

Nice job Maggs, I had no idea the life of a dragonfly was so complicated. Last year in Maine I saw a beautiful bright red one. Again great, interesting read and beautiful photos. Peace!! Tom

Related Articles