Dragonfly Facts

Dragonfly FAQ

Here are some common questions about dragonflies:

What do dragonflies eat?
Adult dragonflies mostly eat other flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes. They also will take butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies. The larvae, which live in water, eat almost any living thing smaller than themselves. Larger dragonfly larvae sometimes eat small fish or fry. Usually they eat bloodworms or other aquatic insect larvae.
How many kinds of dragonflies and damselflies are there?
Currently about 5000 species of dragonflies and damselflies are known; experts guess that there are probably between 5500 and 6500 species in total.
How long do they live?
Most temperate-zone species live as adults less than a month, though some species can live as long as six months.
What enemies do dragonflies and damselflies have?
Birds, spiders, frogs, larger dragonflies. In the larval stage, they are preyed on by fish, frogs, toads and newts, and other water invertebrates.
How can I tell a dragonfly from a damselfly?
Damselflies are usually slim, their forewings and hindwings narrow at the base and have similar shapes, and their eyes are widely separated. Most species hold their wings above the abdomen when they are resting. Dragonflies are larger. Their eyes touch near the top of their head. The wings do not narrow at the base; the forewings and hindwings differ in shape. When they are resting, the wings are usually spread.
What are the biggest dragonfly and damselfly?
The Megaloprepus coerulatus damselfly of Central America has a wingspan up to 19 cm. The bulkiest known dragonfly is Petalura ingentissima from Australia, with a wingspan up to 16 cm. Extinct fossil dragonflies with wingspans up to 70-75 cm have been identified.
What is the smallest dragonfly?
Several dragonflies in the genus Agriocnemis have a wingspan of just 17-18 mm. (7/10 inch).
How fast can a dragonfly fly?
It is estimated that the top speed for a dragonfly is between 30 and 60 km/h (19 to 38 m.p.h.). The maximum fspeed varies a lot between different species, with bigger dragonflies generally flying faster than smaller ones.
How fast do they beat their wings?
Not fast, about 30 times per second (compared to bees, for example, at 300 beats per second). However, dragonflies have two sets of wings, so they don't have to beat them so fast.
How strong are their eyes?
A dragonfly can see all the way around itself, because its eyes have about 30,000 lenses. However, the human eye with only one lense can see more sharply, though only front and sides.
How long have dragonflies been around?
About 300 million years. Huge dragonflies were flying when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Where do dragonflies live?
Dragonflies start their life in water, therefore they are often found near water: ponds, lakes, canals, streams, rivers and swamps. Some dragonflies with a short larvae cycle (a few weeks) also can live in rain puddles. Since dragonflies are very good flyers they can sometimes be found a very long way from water.
Do dragonflies bite or sting?
No, although large dragonflies will sometimes try to bite, but they fail to break the skin.
Do dragonflies migrate?
Some, such as the green darner in New Jersey migrate short distances - averaging about 7-1/2 miles per day, and generally moving every third day. On the other hand, the globe skinner migrates the farthest of any insect, about 11,000 miles across the Indian Ocean.
Where can I buy books, field guides, and other information about dragonflies and damselflies?
Check out our online shopping guide.
Dragonfly Photos