Life Cycle of a Dragonfly: Nature’s Fascinating Transformation

Dragonflies

Life Cycle of a Dragonfly

Egg Stage

  • Dragonflies lay eggs in or near water
  • Eggs hatch into aquatic larvae called “nymphs”

Dragonflies begin their life cycle as eggs, which are typically laid in or near water. The specific location varies, but common sites include submerged plants or nearby soil. The eggs then hatch into aquatic larvae, also known as nymphs.

Nymph Stage

  • Nymphs have large eyes and gills inside their rectum
  • They feed on aquatic organisms like mosquito larvae
  • Nymph stage lasts from 1 to several years

During the nymph stage, dragonflies are aquatic and usually drab, with six legs and large eyes. They have unique gills located inside their rectum, which they use to breathe by drawing water in and out. Nymphs feed on various aquatic organisms, including mosquito larvae. This stage can last from one to several years, depending on the species.

Adult Stage

  • Adults have huge eyes that cover most of the head
  • They are skillful fliers and predators
  • Mating and egg-laying are primary goals

When nymphs undergo metamorphosis, they emerge as adult dragonflies with huge eyes covering most of their head. As adults, they become skillful fliers and predators, feeding mainly on other insects, such as mosquitoes and flies. The primary goals of adult dragonflies are to mate and lay eggs, ensuring the continuation of their life cycle.

Comparison between nymph and adult stage:

Nymph Stage Adult Stage
Aquatic, live in water Terrestrial, live outside of water
Drab appearance Bright, colorful bodies
Gills inside rectum for breathing Respiratory system for breathing
Feed on aquatic organisms Feed on other insects
One to several years in duration Relatively shorter life span

Dragonfly Reproduction and Mating

Courtship and Mating

Dragonflies exhibit various courtship behaviors. Males typically perform aerial acrobatics to attract females.

Once a suitable mate is found, the male dragonfly uses claspers located on his abdomen to hold onto the female’s head or thorax. This forms a tandem position known as the mating wheel.

Laying Eggs

After mating, females lay their eggs in or close to water. Some species lay eggs directly into the water, while others insert their ovipositors into aquatic plants or pond margins.

  • In water: Females of some species, like the common green darner, dive into the water to deposit their eggs on submerged plants.
  • In plants: Species like the blue dasher use their ovipositors to insert eggs into plant stems above the waterline.

While laying eggs, the male often guards the female to ensure no other males attempt to mate with her.

Mating Behavior Example Species
Eggs laid in water Common green darner
Eggs inserted in plants Blue dasher

Please note that the specific behaviors may vary, depending on the species of dragonfly.

Dragonfly Diet and Predators

Feeding Habits

Dragonflies are known for their voracious appetites, mainly feeding on smaller insects such as:

  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Moths
  • Butterflies

Adult dragonflies catch their prey mid-flight using their bristly legs. They are extremely agile and fast fliers, which helps them capture a variety of day-flying insects.

Dragonfly Nymphs

The diet of dragonfly nymphs is slightly different, as they are aquatic creatures. Nymphs feed on various aquatic organisms, including:

  • Mosquito larvae
  • Small fish
  • Aquatic insect larvae

Natural Predators

Dragonflies, despite being predators themselves, are not exempt from becoming prey. There are several animals in their natural habitat that hunt and consume dragonflies, such as:

  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Spiders

Moreover, dragonfly larvae are eaten by many fish and birds, making them an important part of the food chain. This also means that any toxins found in dragonfly larvae, like mercury, can affect the animals that consume them and eventually make their way up the food chain.

Physical Characteristics

Wings

Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata, which is further classified into two suborders – Anisoptera (dragonflies) and Zygoptera (damselflies). The main difference between dragonflies and damselflies is their wing shape. Dragonflies have two pairs of wings that are broader at the base and narrower at the tips, while damselflies have wings of similar shape and size.

  • Anisoptera – broad wings
  • Zygoptera – slender wings

Dragonflies are also known for their incredible ability to hover in midair, due to their powerful wings and agile flight.

Coloration

Dragonflies exhibit a wide range of colors, including vibrant blues, greens, reds, and yellows. The colors are not only for aesthetic purposes but also serve as camouflage or warning signals to predators.

  • Vibrant colors
  • Camouflage or warning signals

Abdomen

The abdomen of a dragonfly is long and segmented, allowing for flexibility during flight. This design helps them maneuver quickly and efficiently in the air, which is crucial for catching their prey.

  • Long and segmented
  • Flexible for quick maneuvering

Compound Eyes

One of the most striking features of dragonflies is their large compound eyes, which contain thousands of individual lenses called ommatidia. These lenses allow dragonflies to have a nearly 360-degree field of vision, making them excellent hunters.

  • Thousands of ommatidia
  • 360-degree field of vision
Feature Dragonfly Damselfly
Wings Broader at the base Similar size
Wing Position Perpendicular Parallel
Abdomen Robust and sturdy Slim and slender
Eye Separation Touching/nearly so Clearly separated

By examining the physical characteristics of dragonflies, we can better understand their incredible abilities. Their powerful wings, vibrant colors, flexible abdomen, and large compound eyes contribute to their adept hunting and impressive aerial acrobatics.

Dragonfly Habitats and Conservation

Pond and Marsh Habitats

Dragonflies predominantly live in pond and marsh habitats, where they prefer still water. With an abundance of reed and other vegetation, these environments provide:

  • Shelter
  • Breeding grounds
  • Food resources like mosquitoes and other small insects

Dragonfly larvae, also known as nymphs, are aquatic and live exclusively in water. They breathe underwater by drawing water in and out of their hind end[^1^]. During summer months, their hatching process occurs, followed by subsequent growth and development into adult dragonflies.

Migration Patterns

The common green darner, a widespread dragonfly species, has been found to exhibit migration patterns. They travel between breeding and hibernation locations, sometimes spanning the entirety of North America.

Pond and Marsh Habitats Migration Patterns
Lifestyle Sedentary Migratory
Location Ponds, marshes Continental North America
Example Damselflies* Common green darner
Mobility Limited High due to migratory nature

*Please note that damselflies are closely related to dragonflies but are not an identical species.

Conservation efforts are vital for ensuring the survival and preservation of dragonflies and their habitats. These practices include:

  • Providing clean, unpolluted water sources
  • Maintaining natural vegetation
  • Controlling invasive species
  • Promoting habitat diversity

By adopting these measures, future generations can continue to benefit from the diverse ecological roles dragonflies play in our ecosystems.

Notable Dragonfly Species

Banded Demoiselle

The Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) is a species of damselfly in the order Odonata. Native to temperate regions, it is typically found near slow-flowing rivers and streams.

  • Biology: Males have striking metallic blue-green wings, while females display greenish-brown ones. They are known for their fluttering flight and often rest on leaves.
  • Hemimetabolous life cycle: They undergo a hemimetabolous life cycle, meaning they pass through aquatic nymph stages, called instars, before moulting into adults.

Green Darner

The Green Darner (Anax junius) is a large dragonfly, widespread in the Americas. Frequently seen near ponds and rivers, it hunts small insects and can even eat small fish.

  • Biology: Its vibrant green and blue markings make it easily recognizable. Males have a blue abdomen, and females have a green one. Green Darners are strong fliers, capable of long migrations.
  • Instars and moulting: Similar to the Banded Demoiselle, they also have a hemimetabolous life cycle, starting as aquatic insect larvae, passing through instars, and finally moulting into adults.
  • Comparison with Emperor Dragonfly: The Green Darner is similar in size to the Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator), a species found in Europe and parts of Africa. They have comparable wingspans, averaging around 10-12 cm.
Features Banded Demoiselle Green Darner
Order Odonata Odonata
Habitat Rivers, streams Ponds, rivers
Adult wingspan 6 – 8 cm 10 -12 cm
Wing color Males: blue-green, Females: greenish-brown Males: clear with blue abdomen, Females: clear with green abdomen
Nymphs prey on Insect larvae Insect larvae, small fish
Common types of regions Temperate Tropical, temperate

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Dragonfly Metamorphosis

 

Subject: Naiad to dragonfly transformation 1
Location: Otter Falls Manitoba
April 20, 2013 12:00 am
We were at a family outing to the beach last summer and we were so excited to see some dragonfly naiads emerge from the water. We gently urged one onto a towel to get a closer look and to take some pictures. We took it around to show the kids and explain that it will soon be a wonderful dragonfly, as we were showing them the Naiad started to wiggle like crazy. We were really surprised as the head just popped out and shortly there after the rest of his magnificent little body emerged. He/she climbed off his empty exoskeleton walked a few steps and began to uncurl her wings. It took a short while to stretch them to full size and dry them in the sun. It was one of the most memorable days at the beach I’ve had in a long time. I took many pictures and hope you enjoy them. I had to cut back on the amount of pictures but I hope you don’t mind me sending 2 emails.
Signature: admirer

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear admirer,
Thank you for the wonderful photos and observations on Dragonfly metamorphosis.  We don’t normally post so many photos in a single submission, but we are making an exception in this situation.  Formatting the images takes some time, so we are beginning with a single image of the naiad, and later in the day we will post the remaining photos.  Thanks again for submitting this.

Dragonfly imago begins to emerge.
Dragonfly imago begins to emerge.
Recently metamorphosed Dragonfly
Recently metamorphosed Dragonfly
Recently Metamorphosed Dragonfly
Recently Metamorphosed Dragonfly
Dragonfly:  Imago and Exuvia
Dragonfly: Imago and Exuvia
Recently Metamorphosed Dragonfly
Recently Metamorphosed Dragonfly

Letter 2 – Dragonfly Naiads

 

Subject:  Bugs rescued from pool
Geographic location of the bug:  Huntsville, AL
Date: 08/21/2019
Time: 02:17 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We found several of these swimming around in our pool.  They are obviously water bugs if some variety, but my guess is they are immature, making them harder to identify.  Any clues to what they might grow up to be?
How you want your letter signed:  Brown family

Dragonfly Naiads

Dear Brown family,
These are Dragonfly Naiads, the aquatic larval stage.  If they are allowed to grow in your pool, you will have adult flying Dragonflies after their final metamorphosis.

Dragonfly Naiad

Letter 3 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

stumped
I try to make every effort to identify unknown insects (using your site and others) before I ask for your help, but honestly I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I was emptying the water out of our dog’s pool, and at the bottom was this insect. It was a good swimmer, staying at the bottom of the pool and blending in really well with the grass and other debris that had blown into the water. There was also an immature one of these, which I was unable to photograph. This is in Memphis, TN. Any ideas? Thanks,
Tim
www.WildlifeTheater.com

Hi Tim,
This is an immature Dragonfly, known as a Naiad.

Letter 4 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Insect ID
Hello,
My daughter (4 years old and loves bugs – which I think is so cool) and some friends found this bug in the water (there were quite a few of them) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Do you have any idea what it might be? I know the picture is not that great. Notes:
– This bug appeared to propel itself by blowing air out of its "rear-end" – no joke
– It looked like it was forming wings of some sort, so I am wondering if it is born
in the water, but eventually emerges as some type of a "fly"
– 6 legs
– fly-like eyes
– alive – so it positively lives in the water
– approx. 2 inches long
– buried itself in the sand for awhile
Any help you could give would be great. My daughter and her friends ask me every day if I found out what "bob the bug" is.
Thanks,
Sherry

Hi Sherry,
Bob the Bug is a Dragonfly Larva or Naiad. They do use a jet propulsion type of locomotion by shooting water out from the rear and propelling themselves forward. Feed Bob the Bug small aquatic insects and he will reward you with eventual metamorphosis into a winged Dragonfly.

Letter 5 – Dragonfly Metamorphosis

 

(no subject)
We saw this today by the river in Chattanooga, Tennessee. What is it???
Tammy Miller

Hi Tammy,
This is truly an awesome photograph of Dragonfly Metamorphosis. The nymph or naiad, the immature Dragonfly lives underwater. When it is ready to become an adult, it climbs onto the ground, usually on a twig or branch, and splits its skin. The winged adult emerges and after its wings have expanded and hardened, it flies away.

Letter 6 – Dragonfly Metamorphosis

 

dragonfly
I don’t think you would be able to positively ID this dragonfly or can you? Just thought I’d share this metamorphoses with you and your visitors. Great Job,
Andrew

Hi Andrew,
Your photo is stunning, the second Dragonfly Metamorphosis photo in two days. Actually yours came in first but due to the disorganized manner in which we post, the other image went live first. We especially like the fact that the gnat in your photo is unsuspecting that when the Dragonfly can fly, it might become dinner. Your are right, we cannot positively identify your dragonfly, but we believe it to be a Darner because of the clear wings.

Letter 7 – Dragonfly with Larval Water Mites

 

mites?
Hello Bugman,
I just came over your site on the internet. I like taking macro shots of insect and today I have taken an interesting one. There are were some red dots on the wing of a dragonfly. I think maybe they can be some sort of insects or mites. I live in Hungary, Europe I hope you can help me anyway…
Best regards.
Ambruzs Péter

Dear Ambruzs Péter,
Your photo is beautiful. We suspect you have photographed the Locust Mite, Eutrombidium rostratum. Essig writes that it : “is the common locust mite of the United States and Europe. It is a large bright red species. … They are often taken on the body and wings of grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and mantids, and do not attack humans.” Even if it is not that exact species, you have most definitely photographed mites hitching a ride on your dragonfly.

Update:  August 18, 2017
Thanks to several comments we have received on this very old posting, we now realize these are larval Water Mites.  According to Northwest Dragonflier:  “Although odonates carrying water mites typically appear to be healthy and energetic, studies indicate that their longevity, flying endurance, and reproductive success can be negatively impacted by the stowaways. This seems to be especially true when lots of mites cluster together and cause significant damage to the cuticle of the exoskeleton, perhaps leading to desiccation. I assume that clusters of mites at particular locations on the odonate body—until they drop off anyway—can also interfere with reproduction by impeding copulation or by blocking sperm transference to the male’s secondary genitalia. It seems that just a few mites attached to unobtrusive areas of the body have negligible impact, and it’s more of a commensal relationship in that case.”

Letter 8 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Uninvited bug in tropical tank
Hi,
I was hoping you could help me with identifying this. I found it in my tropical freshwater fish tank the other day but not sure how it got there as it has been set up for 3-4 months and has a lid!! After looking through your site, the closest I could find is a Naiad but it doesn’t share some of the features. If it is a Naiad it’ll have a hard time getting out of the water let alone opening the lid of the tank, so I shall have to rescue it! What sort of time-frame is there for them turning into dragon-fly (if thats what it is)? Thanks for all the great work you guys do…
Laura Wells
(UK)

Hi Laura,
Yes, this is a Dragonfly Naiad. We are confused as to why you cannot remove the lid from your tank. Is it sealed? How do you feed the fish? This Dragonfly Naiad might have been very small and it might have arrived on the plants. We are also curious what it has been eating as they are carnivores.

Thank you for identifying it. Although I can remove the lid of the tank, I doubt a dragonfly can and there is no way for it to climb out of the water, so I shall rescue it this afternoon! It certainly hasn’t been eating my fish but I do feed the fish blood-worm once a week, pehaps this has been sustaining it? Thank you once again, we are all very grateful for your hard work…
Laura

Hi Laura,
Thanks for writing back and clearing up our confusion. We had visions of an hermetically sealed fish tank, fish and all, that was imported from China. The Blood Worms, aquatic midge larvae in the family Chironomidae, have probably been sustaining the Dragonfly Naiad. Additionally, the Dragonfly Naiad was probably introduced along with the living Blood Worms.

Letter 9 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

underwater bug
Hello!
I’ve tried to identify this bug through your archives and keep coming up empty. This species was found in my pond this morning and didn’t shy away like most of the waterbugs do. I live in West Tennessee. I’ve seen some strange things in my pond but this was a first.
Kim

Hi Kim,
This is a Dragonfly Naiad, the aquatic nymph that will metamorphose into a winged adult.

Letter 10 – Dragonfly Metamorphosis

 

bug
Bugman,
Here’s a few pictures that I took over the summer. My location is on Loughborough Lake north of Kingston, Ontario. What is it? Also, here is the annual infestation of Boxelder Bugs that we get in only one window of the office building where I work. Thanks in advance.
Christa Johnston

Hi Christa,
What great photos you have sent showing Dragonfly metamorphosis. We don’t know the species, but all Dragonflies begin life as aquatic nymphs. When they are ready to molt into adults, they come ashore, split their skin and emerge as winged adults. The wings will expand and harden and the adult is then capable of flight.

Letter 11 – Dragonfly Nymph

 

cant get rid of these bugs
These bugs keep infesting my fountain(pix # 2) the humming birds wont drink from here anymore. How do I make them go somewhere else? I have lizards and because of that I don’t use a bug man. Every time I go to ad water to my fountain these bugs are all over under the water. What are they? Do they bite or sting? How do I make them go away? Please help. Thanks in advance.
Tonya Stonehocker
Las Vegas Nevada

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Hi Tonya,
There is no reason to want to get rid of these predatory immature Dragonfly Naiads.  They will eat mosquito larvae in your fountain.  We cannot think of any reason the humming birds would be frightened off by the Naiads.

Letter 12 – Dragonfly Naiads

 

aquatic bug;gray to dk. brown;large eyes
Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 6:03 PM
After draining the pool, found these bugs in a variety of sizes. Fast swimmers;
don’t know what they eat but will eat each other if in a small container. Don’t bite humans. Shed their “skins” at periodic stages. Seem to do well in very cool H2O. Fall is starting early. Am in the very Southern tip of Indiana…across the Ohio River is Kentucky, & not far from Illinois.
Singin’
Southern tip of Indiana

Dragonfly Naiads
Dragonfly Naiads

Hi Singin’,
These are Dragonfly Naiads, immature Dragonflies. Sorry, we can’t identify the exact species.

Hey — Thanks a million!  I’d have never guessed “Dragonflies”.  I’d thought it was something that blew in with the high winds from hurricane “Ike”!! Now I won’t feel so bad when we clean out the rest of the pool. I was getting ready to put some pool water in a 10 gallon aquarium, catching the bugs & trying to keep them alive over winter time!!  ( I must be a lunatic! )  Thanks again,
Singin’

Letter 13 – Dragonfly Larva

 

Aquatic type Insect
July 17, 2010
Location:  East Texas
This ”bug” was found after draing my pool and letting the leftover water sit for about 2 weeks. At first glance I thought they were small growing crayfish somehow in my pool. there is very minimal amount of water actually left in the pool and there are possibly 100’s of these creatures. I have found a few eating and dragging around some of the parts of dead ones. They seem to have just two eyes and six legs. Also it seems they have a very short set of wings that moves only half way to their back. They are a sand color with solid white bellies. Size ranges from about a small roach up to a locust, about half the length of a pinky finger. Please help me identify the insects or bugs
Joshua B

Dragonfly Larva

Hi Joshua,
Your insects are Dragonfly Larvae and they are predatory.  If there is no other prey, they will prey upon one another.

Letter 14 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Water bug of the Waccamaw River
Location:  South Carolina, America
August 19, 2010 9:17 am
Hello, My girlfriend and I found this bug in the water while kayaking the Waccamaw River, SC USA. It was in May of this year. The bug didn’t move very much even after we took it out of the water, after we took his picture we set him back in the water:)
Sean

Dragonfly Naiad

Hi Sean,
This is an immature Dragonfly.  Like many aquatic nymphs, the immature Dragonfly is also called a Naiad.

Letter 15 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

What is this alien creature?
Location: North Texas
March 29, 2011 10:54 pm
We, recently, bought a house with a pool and when we drained the pool, to clean it out, I noticed these creatures moving around in the shallow water (about 3 inches deep). There were about 5 of these creatures and I caught two of them to take pictures and ask around to see if anyone knew what they are, but nobody, that I asked, knew what they were.
I observed these creatures for awhile and noticed that they have 6 legs and they squirt water out their back ends to propell themselves through the water.
I took these pictures. If you know what they are, can you tell me what they are?
Signature: Scotti B.

Dragonfly Naiad

Hi Scotti,
This is the larva of a Dragonfly, and like many other aquatic nymphs, it is called a Naiad.  We hope they survived the pool cleaning.  You can transfer them to another container of water until they mature, or even better, release them in a local pond.

Thank you for finding out what kind of alien looking creature I found in my pool was. It turned out to be a Dragonfly Larva (Naiad). I had never seen one before and it had me stumped. And, by the way, they did survive the pool cleaning. I saved them all and I released them into a nearby pond and I hope to see them flying around this summer.
Thanks, again!
Scotti B.

Letter 16 – Dragonfly Naiads

 

Noone can recognize these…
Location: Southern NH. Pond
May 28, 2011 9:43 pm
I went swimming in a pond a few days ago and after our day was coming to an end, we started noticing these ugly bugs in the water. After paying attention there were quite a few of them. We collected some to take pictures but they didnt come out perfect. Do these bite? Cause they look like that have lil pinchers on the back end.
Signature: *CuriousInNH*

Dragonfly Naiads

Dear *CuriousInNH*,
Despite the poor quality of your image, it is easy to identify these Dragonfly Naiads.  Immature Dragonflies are aquatic predators.  We don’t believe they are capable of biting a human.

Letter 17 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: HELP IDENTIFY POND BUG
Location: Pond setting on bottom
September 16, 2012 3:39 am
Hi! I found these bugs on the bottom of my pond. There were about 40 or so of them huddled together. I looked online to see if their photo matches any other bug photo found online. The closest I got to were ”dragonfly nymphs”. If you could identify these bugs it would be appreciated. Thank you!
Signature: Puzzled Pond Owner

Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Puzzled Pond Owner,
You are correct.  These are immature Dragonflies and they are called Naiads, as are many aquatic insect nymphs.

Letter 18 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Southern Oregon Bug
Location: Southern Oregon
May 20, 2013 8:58 pm
Hi,
We found this bug while playing in Lost Creek. It acts like it wants to sting with its tail and bite. Should we avoid this creek and bug? Thanks in advance..
Signature: Jerrod

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Jerrod,
This is the aquatic larva of a Dragonfly, known, like other aquatic larvae of flying insects, as a Naiad.
  It will not sting and it will most likely not bite.  I has a highly specialized hinged mouth that expands and shoots out to snare prey while the naiad waits well camoflauged among the plants and aquatic debris.  Each species of Dragonfly, and there are many, has a distinctive looking Naiad, but alas we do not have the necessary skills to quickly identify your Naiad to the species level.

Letter 19 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Bug Identification
Location: Findlay, OH
May 28, 2014 7:15 pm
This bug was found in a Findlay, Ohio pond. No one knows what it is. I live in Florida and have no cue, either. Can you help?
Signature: Lynn

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Lynn,
This is a naiad or aquatic nymph of a flying insect, and we believe it is a Dragonfly Naiad.  Each species of Dragonfly has a different looking naiad, but we haven’t the skill to identify most to the species level.

Letter 20 – Dragonfly: Female Black Meadowhawk or other???

 

Subject: Dragonfly ID
Location: Butler, PA
August 13, 2014 7:14 am
I found this dragonfly at Jennings Environmental Education Center in Butler county, PA. Having trouble finding it in the books. Best I can come up with is Black Meadowhawk, a young one.
Thanks,
Signature: Glenn

Skimmer Dragonfly, but which species???
Skimmer Dragonfly, but which species???

Dear Glenn,
We cannot say for certain that your identification of a Black Meadowhawk is correct, however your individual does look very similar to this female Black Meadowhawk,
Sympetrum danae, that is posted on BugGuide.  We do believe you have the family Libellulidae, the Skimmers correct.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide some information.

Letter 21 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Bugs In My Pool
Location: Westminster, California, U.S.
September 17, 2014 6:24 pm
I have found about 50 of these crazy little bugs in my pool over the last two days and have no desire to swim with them. My best guess is that I can be rid of them by keeping the pool algae free, which has been a problem this summer. In the meantime, what is this bug that lives underwater, moves very slowly on land does not survive outside of the water, swims very quickly in trying to escape my net, and has my wife so freaked out she will not swim in the pool until they are gone?
Thank you,
Signature: Gary

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Gary,
This is the aquatic larva of a Dragonfly, commonly called a Naiad, a name shared with other aquatic larvae of flying insects.  We are very curious about your pool, which has algae as well as thriving aquatic insect life.  Do you not use chlorine or other pool chemicals?  Since Dragonfly Naiads are predatory, they need to eat other aquatic creatures, including the larvae of Mosquitoes, hence they are beneficial insects.  Dragonfly Naiads are not aggressive toward humans, and they will not hurt you or your wife.

Letter 22 – Dragonfly Naiads found in Aquaponics system

 

Subject: Found this in my Aquaponics System
Location: Patterson, CA
October 4, 2014 1:47 pm
I cannot positively identify this bug. I have found things similar to it online, but nothing quite like this…
I have an aquaponics system and the are thriving in my duckweed grow bed. When I drained the bed today these things came out like spiders from the rocks at the bottom of the growbed. When I put in the duckweed there were small things swimming in the water, I actually assumed they were frershwater shrimp, but now I m guessing they have grown and this is what I have. What is this? should I get rid of it? Should I keep it? Can I eat it?
Signature: Nick

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Nick,
This is the naiad or aquatic nymph of a Dragonfly, and it is considered a beneficial insect that will eat mosquitoes and other small creatures in your aquaponics system.  We imagine you can eat it if you wanted to try, though we don’t believe we have seen any references regarding Dragonfly naiads being relished by entomophages.

Aquaponics System
Aquaponics System

 

Letter 23 – Dragonfly Naiad and Exuvia

 

Subject: Bug in Dam
Location: Taggerty, North East Victoria, Australia
November 18, 2014 2:26 am
Hi there,
I was taking photos of dragonfly over my parents dam when I noticed this guy staring at me.
This photo was taken in Taggerty, (north east) Victoria, Australia. We’re at the end of spring but it’s been quite a hot spring. Never seen anything like it before and it was about an one maybe one and a half inches long.
Thanks for your time
Signature: Cait O’Pray

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Subject: Bug In Dam Update
Location: Taggery, Victoria, Australia
November 19, 2014 2:03 am
I sent a ID request yesterday about a bug i saw laying on a lillypad that i’d never seen before. Well today i went back to take a look and i think it’s shed it’s skin?? Thought it might help to ID it if you get the time.
Signature: Cait O’Pray

Dragonfly Exuvia
Dragonfly Exuvia

After having had a look on line i think this might actually be a dragonfly nymph! i did notice what i think is a red dragonfly, yesterday i only noticed one red one and today there was definitely two bright red ones.

Dear Cait,
You are correct that is a Dragonfly Naiad, and your second image is of the exuvia or cast off exoskeleton.  Dragonfly Naiads are aquatic predator, and when the time for metamorphosis nears, the naiad leaves the water and climbs a vertical surface, like the grasses depicted in your second image, and there it molts for a final time, flying off as an adult Dragonfly.

Letter 24 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: bug?
Location: north carolina
April 5, 2015 10:08 am
I found a bug in a pond in the woods and cant identify it has six legs it looks like it has a stinger and its heas looks like a small preying mantis head
Signature: destiny

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Destiny,
This is the aquatic nymph of a Dragonfly, commonly called a naiad.  It does not sting, however, it is a predator that feeds on aquatic insects and other small creatures, including small fish and tadpoles.

Letter 25 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: I found this little guy in a lake in utah?
Location: South Jordan, Utah, USA
April 9, 2015 2:00 pm
Hi, I found this bug about 2-3 weeks ago in a lake fashioned like a little beach here in central utah. I’ve been taking care of it this whole time and its been doing fine, I just have no clue of what type of bug it is. please help!
Signature: I don’t care

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

This looks like the aquatic nymph of a Dragonfly, known as a Naiad.  Dragonfly Naiads are predatory, and we hope you are providing aquatic prey for it to eat.

thanks so much! and yes i have been able to provide aquatic prey for it, tysm! 🙂

Letter 26 – Dragonfly Naiad and Tadpoles

 

Subject: Weird bug in tank
Location: Karnse county, TX
May 2, 2015 2:18 pm
I found this bug in a tank at my house and was wondering what kind its
Signature: thanks

Dragonfly Naiad and Tadpoles
Dragonfly Naiad and Tadpoles

This is an aquatic Dragonfly Nymph, known as a Naiad, an aquatic predator that may eat your small Tadpoles.

Letter 27 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: What is this?!
Location: Shenandoah Valley – Virginia
July 1, 2015 6:50 am
Bug found in river tank (keeping/growing fish) — no idea what it is!? Some type of stink bug maybe??
Signature: officially creeped out!

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear officially creeped out!,
There is nothing to be creeped out about.  This is the Naiad or larva of a Dragonfly.  The Naiads are aquatic, and they eventually mature and metamorphose into winged Dragonflies. 

Letter 28 – Dragonfly Naiads

 

Subject: Bug in our pond
Location: Central Texas
August 15, 2015 1:26 pm
Ok I have no idea what this bug is but it freaks me out. I’ve looked on all these different websites trying to identify it but have never been able to. It has 6 legs and like a stinger looking thing on its butt.
Signature: Hannah

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Hannah,
You have Dragonfly Naiads, the aquatic nymphs that will eventually metamorphose into the familiar winged adult Dragonflies.  Dragonflies are predators their entire lives.  Adult Dragonflies prey upon flying insects including mosquitoes, and the naiads help to control populations of wrigglers and tumblers, the aquatic larvae and pupae of Mosquitoes.

Dragonfly Naiads
Dragonfly Naiads

Letter 29 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Bug found near Boston, MA
Location: Boston, MA
September 6, 2015 7:10 am
Hello,
We found this bug yesterday at a pond near boston. Haven’t seen anything like it around here before. About an inch in length. Dark brown in color. Head like a preying mantis, some spikes on its back.
Have done some web searches, but can’t find it.
Thank you!
Signature: Matt

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Matt,
This is a Dragonfly naiad.  The larvae of Dragonflies are aquatic, and naiad is a collective term for the larva of winged insects that pass their larval stages aquatically.

Letter 30 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Strange green cricket spider….
Location: Modesto, CA
September 9, 2015 9:01 pm
I cannot find any images of this bug on the Internet and have thus far been unable to identify it… If you could please help me I would appreciate it. I found this bug in Modesto California, by a pond in late August, on a day that was about 104 degrees outside. The pond had been recently drained.
Signature: Ryan Erwin

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Ryan,
We believe this is the aquatic larva of a Dragonfly, known as a naiad, and finding it near a drained pond is good support for that speculation.  Though it looks quite different from any Dragonfly Naiads we have in our archive, it does look similar to an image posted on the Barrier Island Ecology UNCW website.

Letter 31 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Water Bugs
Location: Michigan 49601
April 23, 2016 1:46 pm
We found this while fishing, it was below the water in a shallow Sandy area
Signature: Matthew Wooten

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Matthew,
This is a Dragonfly Naiad.  A Naiad is an aquatic nymph.

Haha, Awesome, thank you for getting back, was creeped out by the looks, it said it was supposed to be in Virginia, any idea why it’s in Michigan?

Insects just do not respect state or national borders.

Letter 32 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: What is it?
Location: Northern Indiana
May 29, 2016 6:57 pm
My niece found this on her property and we can’t identify it!
Signature: Susan Helwig

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Susan,
Though you did not specify, we are speculating that your friend found this Dragonfly Naiad very near to a pond or other body of water on her property.  This BugGuide image and this BugGuide image both look very similar, though we are unable to provide you with an exact species identification.  We will be postdating your submission to go live to our site in mid-June while we are away from the office.

Letter 33 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Gray bug came out of water
Location: Cumberland county nj
July 11, 2016 3:47 am
My husband had his feet in the river and this grayish bug climbed onto his leg, not sure if it fell in the river and was trying to get out or if it lives in water. Can’t find this bug in any of the books I have or on the internet
Signature: Anyway

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Anyway,
This is the aquatic larva of Naiad of a Dragonfly.  Dragonfly larvae are aquatic predators and when they are nearing maturity, they climb up onto plants growing out of the water, dock pylons or other vertical surfaces protruding from the water so that they can molt and emerge as winged adults.  Your husbands leg presented the perfect surface to accomplish this metamorphosis.  Your Naiad looks like the images on TroutNut that are identified as being in the family Gomphidae.  According to BugGuide, members of the family Gomphidae are known as Clubtails. 

Letter 34 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: What is this bug in my pond?
Location: Central Pennsylvania
August 16, 2016 6:44 am
Hello.
Recently, I found this bug swimming around in my pond. It is summer here. There are a lot of them in there and they generally stay in the water. They don’t skim on top of the water like most bugs I’ve seen in my pond so I am curious. A lot of the time my fish will chase them around and they are very fast. Faster than the fish actually. Their color looks like that of a green and black tadpole but they obviously don’t look like tadpoles. I don’t know if these bugs are dangerous to my pond or fish and I would be very greatfull if you could help me identify it.
Signature: Makayla

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Makayla,
This is the aquatic larva or naiad of a Dragonfly.  Though they normally crawl among aquatic vegetation in search of prey, and when threatened, Dragonfly naiads are able to move more quickly through the water.  According to the Dragonfly Website:  “They easily propel themselves by expelling water out of their body through the anus.”

Letter 35 – Dragonfly Naiad from Australia

 

Subject: pool bug
Location: perth, Australia (Ed. Note:  We needed clarification on the location.)
August 19, 2016 3:57 am
I found heaps of these bugs walking amongst the leaves in the bottom of my pool. They were alive and well and did not seem to be phased being in or out of the water
Signature: djr

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear djr,
This is the aquatic larval form of a Dragonfly, known as a naiad.  Is your location Perth in Australia or Canada?

Letter 36 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject: Swimming bug?
Location: Tennessee
August 27, 2016 7:45 am
I live in Chattanooga TN, I noticed 4 or 5 of these in the kiddie pool in the backyard. The pool is a blow up pool, and has not been cleaned out for a very long time. I usually see these in the late morning, around 10, and they are very fast swimmers. I caught one and put it on the pavement to take a picture. It has 6 legs, and is kind of a clearish yellow. Its about 3/4 of an inch long. Any ideas what it could be? Thanks for any help:)
Signature: Holly Hickam

Dragonfly Naiad
Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Holly,
This is the larva or Naiad of a Dragonfly.  As you probably realize, standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Dragonfly larvae will eat any mosquito larvae that develop in standing water, so they are a beneficial insect.  Adult Dragonflies also feed on winged adult mosquitoes.  We hope you are able to relocate the larvae in your stagnant pool into a suitable area pond.

Letter 37 – Dragonfly Naiad

 

Subject:  Help identify Hamish
Geographic location of the bug:  Priest Lake, Idaho
Date: 07/08/2018
Time: 08:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We found this big creepy crawly on one of the docks on the lake. We asked a few Park rangers and even they couldn’t tell us what he was. We’d love to know what kind of creature Hamish Armadeus Thompson III is.
How you want your letter signed:  Simpson Cousins

Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Simpson Cousins,
This is the aquatic larva of a Dragonfly known as a naiad.

Letter 38 – Dragonfly Larva

 

Subject:  WtFtB.?.?.!
Geographic location of the bug:  Near Glassell Park, Ca.
Date:  May 3, 2019
Time:  8:40am
Your letter to the bugman:  Howdy man of bugs, I need help identifying this underwater creature. I found it under in my fountain resting on algae as I was tending to my pot in the garden. I carefully removed it from the water and placed in a dry surface to try and take photos. Out of water it remained calm. I put it back in it’s place after taking photos.
Please help BugMan!
How you want your letter signed:  Underwater bug finder

Dragonfly Larva

Dear Underwater bug finder,
This is the larva of a Dragonfly.  It is an aquatic predator that will feed on insects and other creatures in your fountain.

Letter 39 – Dragonfly Naiads

 

Subject:  Water bugs
Geographic location of the bug:  Arkansas
Date: 05/25/2019
Time: 10:47 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I was out cleaning the pool because it hasn’t been cleaned since we moved in and I saw some weird looking bugs. I’ve never seen anything like them and I tried googling it but nothing showed up so you’re my last hope. I’m also very sorry that the pictures aren’t well lit but it’s all I have.
How you want your letter signed:  Chloe

Dragonfly Naiads

Dear Chloe,
These are the aquatic larvae of Dragonflies, commonly called naiads.  They are aquatic predators that will help to naturally control populations of Mosquitoes. 

Letter 40 – Dragonfly Naiad caught on fishing lure

 

Subject:  Unidentified ugly water bug
Geographic location of the bug:  In Wakomata Lake, Ontario
Date: 08/04/2021
Time: 01:33 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello!
I was fishing in Wakomata Lake and retrieved a cast and found this bug attached to my lure!! I would love to know what it is! There’s been great debate amongst my family. I’ve been researching and the closest i found that it Might be is a hellgrammite??
How you want your letter signed:  Deanna Sanders

Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Deanna,
It is easy to confuse aquatic larvae.  This is not a Hellgrammite.  It is a Dragonfly naiad, the immature predatory nymph of a Dragonfly.  Perhaps it mistook your lure for a minnow.

Dragonfly Naiad

THAT is crazy!!
thank you so much for your feedback… we had quite a chat about it amongst ourselves. “Predatory”!!!!
Enjoy your day!!
Deanna

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

19 thoughts on “Life Cycle of a Dragonfly: Nature’s Fascinating Transformation”

  1. Good morning,

    With that flattened body of the larva, the oddly small head compared with the side of the thorax as well as the separeted eyes makes it a Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus).

    Renaud, Switzerland

    Reply
  2. Good morning,

    A Dragonfly larvae of that shape with those extraordinary spidery long legs is a Macromidae. Two genuses in the USA, Macromia and Dydimops, but I can’t tell one from the other from larvae.

    Renaud

    Reply
  3. I believe “locust mites” are also known as “velvet mites” which are quite large and terrestrial. These are water mites. They infest odonate nymphs, especially zygopterans, and then transfer to adults during emergence. Much smaller than the locust mites.

    Reply
  4. Wonderful blog! Do you have any recommendations for
    aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid
    option? There are so many choices out there
    that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Bless you!

    Reply
    • We began on GoDaddy because it was virtually free. We needed to change as we gained popularity. We are currently on wordpress.

      Reply
  5. Wonderful blog! Do you have any recommendations for
    aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid
    option? There are so many choices out there
    that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Bless you!

    Reply
  6. i have caught these in the fox valley area of wisconsin for the past 40 years we always called them helgramites and they are a favorite quissine of the lake winnebago strain of perch.

    Reply
  7. Hello Daniel,

    Dragonfly naiads are fairly popular food in some parts of Thailand; I ate some there, in Chiang Mai. They were fried.

    Though I couldn’t necessarily vouch for every species, I would not hesitate to cook and eat some naiaids.

    Best,
    Dave

    Reply
  8. Hello Daniel,

    Dragonfly naiads are fairly popular food in some parts of Thailand; I ate some there, in Chiang Mai. They were fried.

    Though I couldn’t necessarily vouch for every species, I would not hesitate to cook and eat some naiaids.

    Best,
    Dave

    Reply
  9. Thanks for confirming it, I was really puzzled for about 12 hours. I think I was lucky to find the shed skin later in almost the same spot. Wish i had been able to see the dragonfly emerging though, maybe next time.

    Reply
  10. The larvae are voracious predators, eating most living things that are smaller than they are. Their staple diet is mostly bloodworms and other insect larvae, but they also feed on tadpoles and small fish.

    Reply
  11. Those mites are indeed mites, and are indeed members of the group Parasitengona, which includes terrestrial forms like velvet mites and chiggers, and water mites. Locust mites (Eutrombidium) are ecto-parasites on orthopteran wings and adults are large velvety predators. However, these do not parasitize Odonata. The mites in that photo are actually larval water mites; adult and nymphal water mites are colorful predators in freshwater lakes and streams. Only a few genera are known from dragonflies (Limnochares, Hydryphantes, and Arrenurus), with Arrenurus being the most diverse. I hope this helps!

    Reply

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