This year, it seemed dragonfly swarms came on the heels of the cicadas leaving. At least they did in Wildwood...and in a much more quiet manner.
Dragonflies, lovingly called pond dragons, are fabulous fliers that gladly perform acrobatic stunts for all interested humans.
According to Missouri Department of Conservation experts as written for Missouri Conservationist magazine by author Linden Trial, dragonflies live as aquatic insects before maturing into flying insects. Weather changes influence how long dragonflies live, as cited in the article. Most of Missouri's species of dragonflies complete their life cycle in one year.
Some of the state's larger species may need more than 12 months to mature before they emerge from water. Those that live in streams without any flow during portions of the year also may take longer.
Dragonflies are predators, both when immature in the water and as adults on the wing, according to MDC specialists. Adults catch and eat their food as they fly. Only occasionally do they need to land to eat. Usually they eat small insects, but sometimes one can see them catch a butterfly or a cicada.
Immature dragonflies, as do all insects, shed their skin as they grow larger. When they are ready to transform into adults, they climb above the water before breaking out of that last skin.
Newly emerged adults need time to inflate their wings so they can harden enough to fly. Just after emerging, an adult dragonfly is extremely vulnerable. Predators, including insect-eating birds, consume many of them, leaving behind nothing but their bright shiny wings.
At least 65 species of dragonflies live in Missouri. Many of the common dragonflies live throughout the state, but a few species are restricted to only parts of Missouri. The Ozarks region contains the most species. The specialized habitats there also support a greater variety of species. In addition, more dragonfly surveys have been conducted in this region of the state.
Editor's Note: The background information about dragonflies was reprinted with permission from the Missouri Conservationist staff.