Dragonflies: Fearsome yet beautiful

Published 7:30 am Saturday, July 23, 2022

What is it? It flies, it hovers. Some people call it snake feeder, horse stinger, mule killer or darning needle. When I was growing up, we called it a dragonfly; my husband and his friends called it snake doctor. To them, it was a warning that a snake was nearby. It caused them to move with caution and watch out for a snake.

When I saw a picture of a darning dragonfly, it reminded me that it has been said it can sew up a child’s mouth. It is not true of course, but it does have needle-sharp teeth to use against other insects.

The most fascinating thing about the dragonfly is the female gets so busy in flight that she sometimes drops her eggs in the water. What keeps her busy?  Gathering mosquitoes and other insects for food to equal her weight. She swoops above a pond, dips her tail in the water and drops her cluster of eggs there.

Dragonflies have some characteristics similar to house flies with their big eyes. Those hateful house flies’ eyes cover most of the head. They have thousand of jewel-like parts called facets that help them see in different directions at the same time. (That is why it is so hard to bring down house flies). The dragonfly has huge eyes with 15,000 lenses, so its eyesight is extremely sharp, Dragonflies hover like hummingbirds. If you watch one in flight, you will see the movement of its wings is so rapid they look blurred.

But back to those eggs: the female dragonfly swoops down and drops them in a pond. Several weeks later, they hatch into nymphs. If I have ever seen one, I didn’t know what it was, but my research tells me they are not things of beauty. They have a thick green body, a big head and mouth, but no wings in this stage of development. They are voraciously hungry. With lightning-speed they use their folding lower lips like jaw-like hooks and pinchers to snatch water bugs or mosquito larvae. The little nymphs live in the water a long time. When I say a long time, I am speaking of from one to five years. When nature gives them a nudge for change, they climb on the shore and stay there or latch onto a weed or stick. They push out of their old skin and the sun warms and hardens their wings, so that they are soon in flight.

How many times have you caught a dragonfly? I have always wanted to and tried, but I never could. Because of all those eyes, it was easy for one to evade me. Somebody told me one lit on her finger and it gave her a chance to quickly look it over for a few seconds.

One writer hit the nail on the head when he wrote “a dragonfly is a fearsome yet beautiful sight.” And I say it is a wonderful creation of God.