Monday, 16 April 2012

O for Odonata: Dragonflies and Damselflies

TM4791 : The wings of a dragonfly - a Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) by Evelyn Simak
© Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed
for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


1) Odonata comes from the Greek, meaning tooth (referring to the teeth on the mandibles).

2) Immature odonates are aquatic and have an extendable appendage (labium) used for capturing prey. This appendage folds upon itself and has a set of gripping jaws at the end. When prey moves within range, the labium thrusts out faster than the prey can react. The jaws seize the prey resulting in its capture.

3) Their diet consists of small insects mainly mosquitoes and are considered beneficial predators.

4) Dragonflies when at rest, will hold their wings flat like an airplane. Damselflies will fold their wings above their abdomen at rest.

 5) Dragonflies are some of the fastest flying insects in the world with speeds estimated between 25 and 35 km/hour. Some records suggest as high as 56+ km/hour.

6) Mating usually takes place in flight ( How cool is that!).
Most odonates don't engage in elaborate courtship rituals. They tend to take the caveman approach when trying to get the girl. In flight, male dragonflies will clasp females behind the head, with a modified appendage at the tip of his abdomen. This forms a tandem pair and usually only takes a few seconds. Then things get a bit tricky but hang with me. The female sex organ is near the tip of her abdomen, but the male’s sex organ is closer to his thorax. o_o  Therefore, the female has to bend her abdomen forward, to link her business end with his business end. This position forms a lopsided-heart shape that is sometimes referred to as the wheel formation. After copulation the couple may separate or remain in tandem, it depends on species. The eggs are then deposited in a nearby body of water, usually a pond or marsh.


  1. Fascinating - especially the wheel formation! Dragonflies always make me think of clumsy World War I biplanes for some reason.

  2. The Dragonfly is probably the only insect that doesn't gross me out. I'm not even sure why. Probably because their name is so romantic.

  3. Simon: Love the analogy!

    Matthew: The name may be romantic, but they are fierce predators.

    Thanks for stopping by guys. (:

  4. "Mating usually takes place in flight." Is that were the mile high club came from? LOL.

    1. Yes. Yes it does.
      Insects are the epinome of "been there, done that." :D

  5. Big dragonflies used to scare me when I helped my dad out on the farm as a kid.

  6. Hello, Elise! I love dragonflies but I never knew all of this info about them! Thanks for sharing and teaching something new today. :)

    Have a wonderful week and happy A to Z!!

  7. Michael: The farm must have been near a lake or pond. There must have been all kinds of great bugs out there! I hear dragonfly nymphs make good fishing bait.

    Laura: Hello and glad you liked the post. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of the AZ Challenge. (:

  8. For some reason, the dragonfly is less creepy and actually regarded as "cute"... could have something to do with the colours...
    Wow! What a mating ritual! Doing-the-nasty-in-flight-at-50-odd-km-an hour? Gives new meaning to adrenalin rush...

  9. Okay, larger than life pictures of bugs really creep me out. Actually so do life-sized pictures of bugs. Ugh. That said great information, great photos.

  10. The wheel formation looks painful, but I'm sure they're having a great time.

  11. A very interesting and fact-filled post. I'm happy they eat mosquitoes. In fact, the more, the better. :)

  12. I remember being a kid and thinking the immature dragonflies could never turn into the cool flying things I saw buzzing around in the summer. I swore my mom was making that part up :) It is a pretty dramatic transformation!

  13. Okay, found another one I like. Especially if they eat mosquitoes. :)

  14. Anything that eats mosquitoes is my friend, even if it is another insect.

  15. Dragonflies are so pretty. Thanks for posting.

  16. Elizabeth: You're not the only one (: Thanks for stopping by!

    Nick: To get into that crazy position, something has to feel right! :D

    Manzanita: Thanks for dropping in and I agree, glad they eat mostiques too!

    Meradeth: Your Mom sure was right. And I agree, the transformation is increadible! Butterflies, even mosquitoes go through some pretty drastic changes.

    Jessica: I'm sure by the end of the month you'll discover you like a bunch of insects! (:

    Melissa: As much as I like insects, monquitoes are ones I wish we could do without!

    Jessica L: They are a pretty. Thanks for stopping by!


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