Dragonflies are an intriguing insect. They're pretty, colorful, and quick fliers. When perched, they often blend into their surroundings making it tricky to see them. When viewed up close, however, they suddenly become a more prehistoric looking creature.
Their big, bulbous head consists primarily of two large compound eyes which contain thousands of lenses each. This allows them to see almost every angle except immediately behind. They have several neck muscles which allows them to move their head sideways 180 degrees, back 70 degrees, and down 40 degrees.
This excellent vision allows them to catch their prey in flight. The legs capture the prey and bring it up to their mandible, or jaw, which is full of serrated teeth. They’re voracious predators, yet hugely beneficial to the ecosystem and people because they primarily prey on mosquitoes and other flying insects.
Their heads are such an interesting design. Even with those big eyes and wicked set of teeth, they always look like they’re smiling. Could they be happy because of the quantity of prey?
Unlike other insects, dragonflies have 2 sets of wings. Wingspan ranges from 2-5 inches depending on the species. Fossilized dragonflies, dating as far back as 300 million years, had a wingspan of 2 feet! That would be similar in size to the sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, and least tern.
They’re super fast, reaching speeds up to 60mph, and are experts at maneuvering. The 4 veined wings, which can move independently, allows the dragonfly to fly forward, backward, sideways, up and down, hover, and stop on a dime.
The wings are attached directly to large muscles on the thorax. Looking up close at the wing and muscle attachment on the thorax, it appears quite mechanical and reminds me of Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy.
Dragonflies are most commonly found around wetland areas such as the Yakima River and Amon Creek Natural Preserve and also visit backyards that are near other water sources like irrigation canals. But they have a short life span, ranging from 2-weeks to 2 months, depending on the species. There is quite an abundance and variety of species currently at Amon Creek. If you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend going for a short hike to see all the different dragonflies.
Please enjoy this video of the dragonfly showing its head movement.