Wander around any area in the summer months, including ponds, marshes and riverbanks, and you will often see these pretty insects in the general vicinity, as they prefer the calmer waters. They are different to Damselflies, as they can also often be seen flying quite a way from areas of water too. There are approximately 30 species of Dragonfly in Great Britain and Ireland, and they fall into five families and fourteen genera. The five main families are classed as Hawkers, Chasers, Emeralds, Skimmers and Darters.
Dragonflies come from the insect order called Ordonata, which also includes Damselflies. Whilst Damselflies are from the Zygoptera sub-order, Dragonflies belong to the Anisoptera sub-order. This Greek name translates to mean ‘unequal winged’. Dragonflies have broader and shorter hindwings when they are compared to the front pair of wings. Dragonflies have six legs; however most of them cannot walk very well.
Dragonflies are exceptionally fast fliers, and are rated as some of the fastest insects in the world. Some foreign species of Dragonflies have a cruising speed of ten miles an hour, with a maximum speed of up to thirty four miles per hour!
Dragonflies look different to Damselflies. Not only are the rear wings a different size, the Dragonfly cannot hold its wings against its body like the Damselfly; it has to hold them perpendicularly away from his body. The Damselfly has obviously separate eyes, whereas the Dragonflies eyes touch together usually.
Like Damselflies, Female Dragonflies lay their eggs in water, and these hatch into water nymphs. They look incredibly odd, with a crusty looking lump on its back. Most of their life cycle is actually spent underwater, as a nymph. The nymph stage of their life cycle can take up to four years, depending on the species. Dragonfly nymphs will eat other, smaller Dragonfly nymphs at times too. Once the transformation is complete, the nymph will climb up a plant stem, out of the water and shed its nymph skin to emerge as an adult Dragonfly.
The lifespan of an adult Dragonfly is usually only a couple of months. In this time, it will search for a mate and eat small insects, including flies, mosquitoes, bees, ants and sometimes butterflies. They are larger than Damselflies; for example, the Southern Hawker Dragonfly is six centimetres long, whereas Damselflies are usually only three centimetres long. They have a long abdomen, which has a wider section near the wings. This is usually coloured, however the colours are usually thicker than those of the Damselfly, for example if it is blue and black, the black will be thicker and the bands will be blue.