For instance, a few weeks ago I found myself outside on a pleasant summer evening. Lighting directly next to my hand upon the handle of the badminton racket I was holding was a friendly dragonfly. Now I have been exposed to dragonflies my entire life. As a matter of fact, I remember one particular story as a little kid. I find it strange how our minds recall certain events so vividly but easily forget others.
I was raised in the country, so it did not take long for me to figure out that certain winged creatures buzzing around in the air could supply quite the sting. The dragonfly looked suspiciously similar to other stinging buddies like the wasp. All I recall is fishing around a farm pond, and my Uncle Howard was there. I was on the other side alone and this menacing dragonfly begins to circle my fishing rod. I just knew it was coming in for the kill. My dad and my Uncle Howard tried to reassure me of its harmlessness, but I could not be easily convinced.
This particular dragonfly on the badminton handle appeared contented and in no hurry to leave. So I stooped over to examine it closely, really for the first time in my life. Yes, at age 43, I had never taken the time to give the strange flying creature any more than a momentary glance. And what an odd creature it is! It appears to be a fantasy creature one might see in an animated movie, like a fairy.
It has gigantic eyes covering most of its head. They can see 360 degrees and detect colors and polarized light. They have two wings on each side that flutter effortlessly in unison. You cannot help but giggle when you look into its face.
Here are some dragonfly fun facts (smithsonianmag.com):
- There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies,
- At the end of its larval stage, the dragonfly crawls out of the water, then its exoskeleton cracks open and releases the insect’s abdomen, which had been packed in like a telescope. Its four wings come out, and they dry and harden over the next several hours to days.
- Dragonflies are expert fliers. They can fly straight up and down and hover like a helicopter. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve because they only eat prey they catch while flying.
- Dragonflies catch their insect prey by grabbing it with their feet. They’re so efficient in their hunting that, in one Harvard University study, the dragonflies caught 90 to 95 percent of the prey released into their enclosure.
- The flight of the dragonfly is so special that it has inspired engineers who dream of making robots that fly like dragonflies.
- Some adult dragonflies live for only a few weeks while others live up to a year.
- Dragonflies, which eat insects as adults, are a great control on the mosquito population. A single dragonfly can eat 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day.
- Scientists have tracked migratory dragonflies by attaching tiny transmitters to wings with a combination of eyelash adhesive and superglue. They found that green darners from New Jersey traveled only every third day and an average of 7.5 miles per day (though one dragonfly traveled 100 miles in a single day).
- A dragonfly called the globe skinner has the longest migration of any insect—11,000 miles back and forth across the Indian Ocean.