I paused slightly and pondered my seven year-old grandson’s question, “Why are there dragonflies?”
My training taught me that the dragonfly comes from the scientific order Odonata, loosely meaning, “toothed ones”, because of their toothly lower lip used to capture and hold prey, as they eat. Next is the suborder of Anisoptera, meaning “different wings” with their hind wings having a larger and different shape than the front wings. The “Damselflies are the suborder of “Zygoptera, meaning “same wings”, as the wings are similar in size and shape from front to back sets. Making it easier to differentiate between the two.
The dragonflies grow quickly from egg to larva to adult, in as little as 8 weeks for some species. Throughout all stages they are very efficient hunters and great predators. As larvae they will eat other dragonfly larvae, daphnia, mosquito larvae, tadpoles and sometimes even small fish. At the same time they are preyed upon by birds, fish, other aquatic insects and other dragonfly larvae.
As adults the dragonfly is so fearless that it may even take on a hummingbird. Capturing most of its’ prey while in flight, the dragonfly will then transfers the feast to its’ mouth for consumption. At times rousting on a perch where it slowly devours the soft portions and discards the hard shell exoskeleton and wings.
Being somewhat sensitive to temperature change the dragonfly needs sunshine and a healthy physical workout to maintain its’ internal temperature to nearly 110 degrees. They will search out a protective perch on cooler days, or even if a cloud passes overhead in order to survive.
Though most of the Minnesota dragonflies winter in larvae form under the ice, in a restful animated suspension, until spring when they are washed into warmer waters. Some species actually migrate southward in the fall as adult dragonflies, landing in Oklahoma or Texas. Then in the spring return as newly born offspring, to continue the cycle.
Finishing my thoughts, I finally answered, “Dragonflies are the masters of the flying insects, keeping watch over marshes and lowlands for safety and protection of the gentler insects. Making sure the mean insects behave.” My grandson smiled. Balance of life in a nutshell.
Guest Writer: Grandpa Mark V. Peterson has worked 37 years in civil engineering as a field construction representative. Included in my duties over the last several years, I have served as the City of Forest Lake, MN Stormwater SWPPP Field Technician. Many of the responsibilities affect stormwater quality resources for both human and wildlife. My fascination with Dragonflies started in my youth and I love the fact what I do insures that they will be around for my own grandchildren to enjoy