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NC State Extension

Dragonfly

  • Common Name: Dragonfly
  • General Category: Predator
  • Taxonomic Classification: Odonata: Anisoptera
  • Scientific Name: Many species

Description

Dragonflies are iconic insects that are widely seen and recognized. Dragonfly adults are generalist predators that use their bristly legs to scoop up whichever day-flying insects are abundant, often flies. They are extremely agile, fast fliers. The aquatic nymphs (naiads) feed on a variety of aquatic organisms, including mosquito larvae. Because most of the life cycle (one to several years) is spent in the nymphal stage, dragonflies require a permanent body of water.

Dragonfly adult Dragonfly nymph

Identification

Review the images for tips on how to identify these predators.

Adults

Huge eyes that cover most of the head. Tiny antennae. Two pairs of large clear wings that cannot be folded at rest. Long, narrow abdomen. Many different colors.

Nymphs

Aquatic nymphs (called naiads) crawl out of water when full grown so adults can emerge (eclose), leaving empty nymphal skin behind. Extendible mandibles that can catch prey from some distance away (see video). Well developed eyes on large head. Robust body, sometimes camouflaged.

Value in Pest Management

Because mosquitoes are included in the diet of both adults and naiads, dragonflies contribute to natural control of these pest insects. They are not sold commercially.

Origin and Distribution

Native, throughout eastern North America.

Discover Life – Dragonflies

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