Nature Notes: Dazzling Dragonflies

by Alexandra Grove, Environmental Educator

On a hot, sunny day dragonflies zoom past children lined up along the edge of Phillip’s Pond. They dazzle with their colorful bodies, shiny wings, and incredible flying abilities. Over the course of the summer, dragonfly nymphs will emerge from the water to shed their exoskeletons, leaving them behind on plants and sticks for little hands to discover.

Young dragonflies take to the skies with acrobatic ability. They dart across the sky at upwards of 12 mph. They can move each of their four wings independently, allowing these expert flyers to move straight up and down, forward and backward, or hover mid-air. Bulbous, compound eyes provide nearly 360 degree vision-processing this visual information requires the use of 80% of their brains. These adaptations make dragonflies skilled predators that track and ambush their prey. One dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitoes per day.

With millions of years to evolve, it’s no wonder these ancient insects are well equipped for hunting-and dodging eager children trying to get a closer look.