Anisoptera (dragonflies)

Dragonflies are fast moving very agile insects which hunt other insects in the air. Their two pairs of large wings and their large eyes allow them to catch midges and other small flies which they eat on the wing. Dragonflies spend the first four years of their lives as nymphs underwater and emerge from the water shedding their skin to become adult, winged dragonflies for their last few months of life in which they mate and lay eggs then die.




Below is a sequence showing a dragonfly emerging from a pond and shedding its skin to become an adult.


First, the nymph climbs out of the pond and on to a reed.

When it has secured itself to the reed with its hooked feet the back of the thorax splits and the dragonfly begins to push itself out of the old skin.

The dragonfly will then hang backwards out of its old skin with the tip of its abdomen still inside. It has to do this as it needs to led the legs become hard before it can use them.
When the legs have hardened the dragonfly flips itself upright and pulls its abdomen out of the old skin.
It will sit in this position for an hour or two while the abdomen fully extends and the wings extend and become hardened.
During this time the insect will allow liquids to drip from the end of the abdomen - this dries the insect so that it is lighter and ready for flight.
When the wings have hardened, the dragonfly will begin to flap them. This helps to warm the muscles for flight.

When it is ready for flight the insect will climb to a higher point on the reed, flap its wings and then take off. It will then fly to a nearby tree to continue the hardening of its new skin.

After a couple of days the dragonfly will have developed its mature colouring as most dragonflies are green to begin with.

Here are some more pictures of this process:


Above: This dragonfly had climbed halfway up a nearby tree to emerge from nymph form.

Below: a close-up of a dragonfly's head



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