Alternate name Elisa Pennant, Family Libellulidae, Common Skimmers
Patterned in red and black. Prothorax fringed with long brown hair, thorax has mid-dorsal black stripe, widest at front. Abdomen is black with reddish triangular spots on each segment. Wing dark reddish at base.
Adult eats small flying insects. Naiad feeds on small insects and worms.
Normal habitat: Marshes, shallow bays, small streams and ponds.
Dragonflies have excellent eyesight. Their compound eyes have up to 30,000 facets, each of which is a separate light-sensing organ or ommatidium, arranged to give nearly a 360° field of vision, important for taking prey on the wing, as has done the female shown above. Odonates are completely harmless – they do not sting or bite. Indeed, they are beneficial in the same respect spiders and other predators are beneficial – they keep the burgeoning insect population in check. Many of these species prey on each other; I often see dragonflies with damsels in their clutches.
Dragonflies are among the most ancient of living creatures. Fossil records, clearly recognizable as the ancestors of our present day odonates, go back to Carboniferous times which means that the insects were flying more than 300 million years ago, predating dinosaurs by over 100 million years and birds by some 150 million.
Much larger dragonfly species existed in the distant past than occur on earth today. The largest, found as a fossil, is an extinct Protodonata named Meganeura monyi from the Permian period, with a wingspan of 70-75 cm (27.5-29.5 in). This compares to 19 cm (7.5 in) for the largest modern species of odonates, the Hawaiian endemic dragonfly, Anax strenuus. The smallest modern species recorded is the libellulid dragonfly, Nannophya pygmaea from east Asia with a wingspan of only 20 mm, or about ¾ of an inch.
Dragonflies are the world’s fastest insects and, although estimates of their speed vary wildly, most credible authorities say they are capable of reaching speeds of between 30 and 60 km/h (19 to 38 mph). A study showed that dragonflies can travel as much as 85 miles in one day.