The arrival of dragonflies heralds the arrival of summer, whether they are delicately poised on a cattail or floating above a pond. These gigantic, horizontally four-winged insects, which may be found on every continent save Antarctica, are easily identified by their big bodies, hovering motions, and zipping movements. Dragonflies can fly forward at up to 35 mph and backward with equal elegance by taking off vertically like a helicopter. Each nearly touching compound has roughly 28,000 individual eyes, called ommatidia.
In addition to being ancient, dragonflies are among nature’s most useful insects. They don’t represent dragons, despite what their name might lead you to believe.
A Murky Start
The life cycle of a dragonfly begins in water. During the middle of the summer, females float over freshwater areas and plunge their bellies, depositing eggs that hatch in approximately 7 to 8 days. These larvae, also known as naiads or nymphs, hunt aquatic species, mosquitoes, or tiny fish using a lower jaw that stretches out and expands laterally, pulling food into their jaws. They can remain in the water for up to 3 years. They could even consume other dragonfly nymphs as food.
Nymphs swiftly move forward by spitting out the water they had sucked into their stomachs. It takes them between six and fifteen molts, or around 12 hours, to develop into fully fledged adult dragonflies. Fly, mosquito and midge hunting is all that adults do for nearly a month. They can catch food in flight because of the upward slope of their arms, which resembles a basket.
Adults search for mate-finding chances as well. The process of self-insemination begins with the male folding his body to move sperm from the major genitalia, located at the end of his belly, to the supplementary genitalia, located immediately underneath the sternum.
When he locates a female open to being approached, he grabs her by the back of the head with physical constraints at the end of his belly, and the two take off with each other.
As they settle, the female forms a “mating wheel” that really can take the appearance of a heart by curling her belly under to touch his secondary genitalia. (They occasionally mate with in sky.) After a brief pairing period, the female can lay her eggs.
In addition to predators (especially mosquitoes), dragonflies also serve food for fish and birds, which is crucial for their surroundings. Scientists believe these insects to be accurate bioindicators of an ecosystem’s health since they depend on fresh water and steady oxygen levels.
According to the first thorough study of insect species, ten percent of the dragonfly species were endangered in 2009. The creatures are in danger due to pollution, non-native flora, and the degradation of freshwater ecosystems, notably ponds, swamps, and wetlands.
For instance, a professionally imported tree called the Australian black wattle displaces the yellow Presba, a dragonfly exclusively found in South Africa. The quickly spreading invasive plant obstructs the sunlight needed by the grasses to develop. This dragonfly is currently at risk of extinction by the World Union for the Conservation of Nature.