The Dragonfly – The Lean, Mean, Flight Machine

The dragonfly is one of the oldest of the insect species, they are some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago.

Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet.

On a photo hike to a local waterfall, one of my fellow hikers stumbled upon a dragonfly. 

The Dragonfly close up

Instantly, I smiled as I realized that my macro lens was about to be put to good use. Normally, the dragonflies are moving that fast, that you rarely get a chance to truly photograph it.

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Fossils of very large dragonfly-like insects, sometimes called Griffinflies, are found from 325 million years ago (Mya) in Upper Carboniferous rocks; these had a wingspan of up to about 750 mm (30 in), but these were only distant ancestors, not true dragonflies.

Around 3,000 extant species of true dragonfly are known. Most species are tropical, with fewer species in temperate regions. The loss of wetland habitat threatens dragonfly populations around the world. 

green and black dragonfly

What is the fastest recorded speed?

The fastest recorded speed for a dragonfly is 36 miles per hour! With their jewel-like colours and ability to fly backward, they’re quite the aerial specialist.

This one was lethargic and barely moved. I never complained, I just started shooting. The closer I got the more I smiled. It was truly a nature photo shoot for the books!

wrinkled wings

Larval stage

In their larval stage, dragonflies are aquatic and eat just about anything—tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, plus other insect larvae and even each other.

They are predators by their nature both in their aquatic nymphs stage (also known as naiads) and as adults. In some species, the nymphal stage lasts for up to five years, and the adult stage may be as long as ten weeks, but most species have an adult lifespan of five weeks or less, and some survive for only a few days. 

Dragonfly face

Teneral, a recently emerged dragonfly 

As you can see in the photography this one’s wings were wrinkled… a clue we missed that day… for we had stumbled upon a recently emerged out of its larva skin creature. A true find for us! 

In many species of dragonflies, the adults will change colour as they mature.

Newly emerged adults are often paler in colouration. At this stage the dragonfly crawls out of the water, then its exoskeleton will crack open and release the insect’s abdomen, which had been packed in like a telescope. It’s four wings come out, and then they dry and harden over the next several hours to days.

close up of dragonfly face

Mature adults

As an adult becomes sexually mature this is often indicated by a change in coloration. 

Their feeding habits and amazing flight skills make for great mosquito population control. A single dragonfly can eat 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day. 

Almost all of the dragonfly’s head is it’s eyes, so they have incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except for the area right behind them, this and their skilled flight makes them an insect hunter like no other. 

eye lenses on dragonfly

Over mature: In some species of dragonfly, adults become darker in coloration as they age. Some adult dragonflies live for only a few weeks while others live up to a year depending on species and other factors. 


Did you know? A dragonfly called the globe skinner has the longest migration of any insect, 11,000 miles back and forth across the Indian Ocean.

I even moved the rocks around it to get some nicer angles.

Its lime green colour was opaque and neon… We even discussed how we rarely seen this colour before. It was not the iridescent, metallic colours we normally see.

Did you know that a dragonfly’s eye has 30,000 lenses?

variety of dragonfly

Emerald family 

I tried to identify it and the closest I could come to identifying it was it was in the Emerald family. 

The Corduliidae, also known as the emerald dragonflies or green-eyed skimmers, is a family of dragonflies. These dragonflies are usually black or dark brown with areas of metallic green or yellow, and most of them have large, emerald-green eyes.

Did you know? The Hine’s emerald (Somatochlora hineana) is an endangered dragonfly species found in the United States and Canada.

Who knew that there are 5000+ varieties of dragon flies, all of which (along with damselflies) belong to the order Odonata, which means “toothed one” in Greek and refers to the dragonfly’s serrated teeth?

Difference Between dragonfly and damselflies 

Dragonflies can be mistaken for the related group, damselflies (Zygoptera), which are similar in structure, though normally lighter in build; however, the wings of most dragonflies are held flat and away from the body, while damselflies hold their wings folded at rest, along or above the abdomen.

Dragonflies are agile fliers, while damselflies have a weaker, fluttery flight. 

The Dragonfly looking at me


In some cultures, dragonflies represent good luck or prosperity. So, make a wish when you see a dragonfly and it’ll surely come true.

Fishermen used them as an indicator of good fishing grounds. It was thought that plenty of dragonflies meant there were plenty of fish around. If a dragonfly hovered near the fisherman, he would take it as a good luck sign. There are many more superstitions that are associated with the dragonfly. 

I hope you enjoyed my photo shoot with a very special model.

It was a Macro escape into the hidden world!

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  1. Bethan Morgan says:

    Wow, that photo of it’s eyes is awesome, thanks for sharing

    1. Tina Dean says:

      Thank you Bethan. Glad you enjoyed.

  2. These are brilliant shots…they’re not easy to photograph!

    1. Tina Dean says:

      Thanks Charu. Agree – I was lucky that day.

  3. Thanks, one of my favourite creatures( esp as they eat mozzie lava), so beautiful too.

    1. Tina Dean says:

      Thanks Ronny. They are gorgeous. I hope to get more chances like this in the future.

  4. Those are beautiful shots! This colour really looks amazing! Would the pics be taken in Europe I’d say it might be a Ophiogomphus cecilia, but for sure it belongs to the family of Gomphidae and not to the Emeralds. The Gomphidae family you can easily tell by their eyes not touching each other in the middle like they do in other big dragonfly families. Since it is a very fresh emerged one that is the reason why it was sitting still, waiting for its wings to dry out and get tight. The colours of eyes and body can still change after a little time. Congrats to these shots!

    1. Tina Dean says:

      Thanks Neila. Your comment has been most helpful. Deeply appreciated.

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