Species: Anisoptera sub-order
Diet: other insects
When and where to see: still water from May to September
Dragonflies are insects in the sub-order Anisoptera, which means “unequal-winged”. There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonfly worldwide and around 30 different species found in Britain and Ireland.
They are easily recognisable and are often seen on warm sunny days. Depending on the species they can reach up to 9cm, and eat other insects, including other dragonflies, whilst flying. Unlike other winged insects, dragonflies do not have a pupal stage and will transition directly from larva to adult. This final larval moult takes up to three hours. This happens out of water and is triggered by day length and temperature.
Where can I see them?
Dragonfly sightings are common from May to September. They are usually found near calmer water like small streams, large ponds, lakes, canals and ditches, but it is rare to see a dragonfly away from water.
What do they look like?
Each dragonfly species is different. Dragonflies are generally large and robust in appearance, with bodies made up of ten segments. A dragonfly’s hind wings are usually shorter and broader than the forewings, and the eyes are very large and usually touch at the top of the head. There are three stages of the dragonfly lifecycle: egg, larva (nymph), and adult.
Newly emerged dragonflies are weak in flight and pale in colour. They spend the first week of their adult life feeding away from the water and gradually becoming sexually mature with adult colouration. They then move back to the water to breed.