Dragonflies are an order of insects. There are around 85 different species in Europe and over 5,000 worldwide. Their outstretched wings are about two to eleven centimeters long. Individual species reach almost twenty centimeters.
Dragonflies have two pairs of wings that they can move independently. You can use it to fly very tight turns or stay in the air. Some species can even fly backward. The wings consist of a fine skeleton. In between stretches a very thin skin, which is often transparent.
Dragonflies are predators. They catch their prey in flight. Their front legs are specially designed for this purpose. Dragonflies mainly eat other insects, even dragonflies of their own kind. Their own enemies are frogs, birds, and bats. Wasps, ants, and some spiders eat the young dragonflies. These also fall victim to carnivorous plants.
More than half of Europe’s species are endangered, and a quarter is even threatened with extinction. Their living areas are shrinking because people want to farm on more and more natural land. In addition, the waters are polluted, so the larvae of the dragonflies can no longer develop in them.
How do dragonflies reproduce?
Dragonflies mate in flight and cling to each other. They bend in such a way that this creates a body shape called the mating wheel. This is how the male’s sperm cells get into the female’s body. Sometimes the male holds on to a plant.
The female usually lays her eggs in the water. Some species also lay their eggs under tree bark. From each egg, the preliminary stage of a larva hatches, which then sheds its skin. Then she is a real larva.
The larvae live in the water for three months to five years. During this time, most of them breathe through their gills. They feed on insect larvae, tiny crabs, or tadpoles. The larvae have to shed their skin more than ten times because they cannot grow with them.
Finally, the larva leaves the water and sits on a rock or holds on to a plant. Then it leaves its larval shell and unfolds its wings. From then on she is a real dragonfly. As such, however, it only lives for a few weeks or a few months. During this time she must mate and lay eggs.