Manual In A Dragonflys Eye: Nymph

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As they grow, they begin to molt. The average nymph molts between 10 and 20 times, shedding its exoskeleton to reveal a larger body underneath. The final molting reveals a full-grown adult dragonfly complete with wings and a gaggle of eyes. Depending on the species, the nymph period can last from a few weeks to several years.

Dragonflies have massive, compound eyes that allow them to see at almost every angle. Their eyes are composed of up to 30, individual lenses, endowing them with excellent vision not only for an insect, but for any animal. Dragonflies can fly backwards, forwards, change direction in a split second and hover for up to a minute. Dragonflies have the ability to beat their two pairs of wings simultaneously or singularly, making them expert fliers. Like many migratory birds, some dragonfly species fly south for the winter and northward when the weather warms.

Dragonflies&Damselflies No.1 - Tying "Dragonfly Nymph Weighted" (Nymphs) by BK

The globe skimmer dragonfly Pantala flavescens has the longest migration of any insect in the world; it travels 11, miles back and forth over the Indian Ocean. Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore.


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By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use. Skip to main content. Traveling at almost 30 miles per hour, dragonflies are the fastest insects in the UK. All dragonflies are carnivorous in both the larval and adult stages of their lives.

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Dragonflies typically eat mosquitoes, midges and other small insects like flies, bees and butterflies, catching its prey while it is flying. A Dragonflies ability to manoeuvre in many directions makes them able to out-fly their prey. Dragonflies also have the advantage of excellent eyesight. Each of their two large eyes is made up of thousands of six-sided units. Together, these smaller eyes enable a dragonfly to detect even the slightest movement. A dragonfly undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.

Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often on floating or emergent plants.

When laying eggs, some species will submerge themselves completely in order to lay their eggs on a suitable surface. After about two weeks, the eggs hatch and an immature dragonfly, or nymph, emerges. The nymphs are not as attractive as the adults. They have tiny wings and a large lower lip, which they use to catch their prey often mosquito larvae. See the slideshow below of the Dragonfly metamorphosis process courtesy of Christine Gamble who captured the Dragonfly emerging from its larvae.

Dragonfly nymphs live in the water. As they grow, they molt shed their skin. Nymphs of some species may take as long as three years to mature.


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Most of a dragonflys life is spent in the larval stage beneath the waters surface, using internal gills to breathe and using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish. The life span ranges from about 6 months to over 7 years most of it is spent in the nymph stage — the adult lives for only a few weeks.

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When the larva is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other emergent plant at night. Exposure to air causes the larvae to begin breathing. The skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its old larval skin, waits for the sun to rise, pumps up its wings and flies off to feed on midges and flies. Dragonflies do not normally bite or sting humans, although they will bite in order to escape, if grasped by the abdomen. They are valued as predators that help control populations of harmful insects, such as mosquitoes.

The oldest known species of dragonfly is the million year old Delitzschala bitterfeldensis. Dragonflies are ancient insects. They were around before the dinosaurs.

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10 Fascinating Facts About Dragonflies

Ancient dragonflies may have been considerably larger than those we see today. A fossilized impression of a dragonfly wing, found in a coal mine in England, is the oldest known dragonfly specimen. This dragonfly lived million years ago and had a wingspan of 8 inches. The largest known dragonfly had a wingspan of 24 inches two feet. Today, the largest dragonfly is found in South America and has a wingspan of slightly over seven inches.