Dragonflies will show up at your pond attracted by the water, in which they will lay their eggs, and the other by the other insects, which they will make their prey. They are the most amazing insects in their ability to fly and hunt their prey.
Dragonflies are generally bigger than the daintier Damselflies. Upon resting on a plant stem Dragonflies will hold their wings out from their bodies and Damselflies will fold their wings up over their backs.
Flying is what Dragonflies do really, really well. They can fly along at 35 miles an hour, and like a stunt car driver, switch their direction within one body length. Then they can hang about in one position and linger or, in the next instance, fly backwards. Their two sets of wings work independently of each other and can rotate to make the maximum use of air pressure across their surfaces. All this so impressed the United States Armed Services that they have shown a marked interest in Dragonfly research.
While doing all this marvelous flying they will manage to spot a flying mosquito with their multi-faceted eyes (10,000 to 30,000 facets depending on the species), swoop down, catch the insect in a basket of sorts they make with their front legs, and eat it on the wing. The original fast food.
Dragonflies mate while flying over the pond and deposit their eggs in the water, usually by perching on a lily pad or clinging to the side of a plant. The adult’s life cycle ends with the coming of fall and winter. The eggs hatch in the pond and turn into nymphs, the special name for Dragonfly larvae. The nymphs live in the water and prey on other insect larvae, infant fish and tadpoles.
Dragonfly nymphs are especially fearsome. They will lay in wait for their prey. When prey is spotted they can shoot forward at rapid speed thanks to a jet of water they expel through their abdomen. Then they extend a specialized foldable jaw which rests under their heads to make an even quicker grab of their hapless meal.
Come spring the nymphs shed their exoskeleton for the last time. Somehow they know that they are now to live life above the waters’ surface from now on. They climb up on a plant stem, split the back of their exoskeleton and crawl out of it. They spread their brand new wings and let them dry in the sun. Their wings and bodies are now one of dazzling array of colors depending on their species. When their wings are dry they fly off leaving their old bodies behind them still perched on the plant stem. Soon they are hunting insects around the pond and providing an impressive aerial display to anyone who cares to sit by the pond and enjoy it.
(Other articles archived under April ~ frogs and herons.
Next week… Damselflies