They may look aggressive, with twitching mouthparts and a curled sting like tale, but they are quite harmless.
The word dragonfly has its source in the myth that dragonflies were once dragons, both having long thin bodies and outstretched wings. Called the ‘Devil’s riding horse’ in Old English, dragonflies were believed to be either demonic or seen as a poisonous winged snake. In contrast, dragonflies have been revered in Asia. Generally associated with prosperity and harmony, they are cultural symbols of good harvests and are good luck charms. (Japan’s ancient name Akitsushmia literally means “dragonfly island”). They are also farmed and eaten – both as larva and as adults – specifically in Indonesia and China.
Dragonflies are excellent hunters, using the basket formed by its legs to catch insects whilst flying. Amazingly they can eat food equal to its own weight in less than 30 minutes. Their prey includes mayflies, flies, mosquitoes, and other insects, even butterflies and bees. The eyes - seen here below in this gallery - (including a close up of on a rainy night of a hatching dragonfly on the right) are one of the most dramatic parts of this incredible insect. Click the images to see them full size.
It has approximately 30,000 ommatidia within its compound eyes, and it sees in colour. Its huge many faceted bulbous eyes means it can see in all 360 degrees around it, and they say 80% of the insect’s brain power is dedicated to its sight.It also has a flattened area right in front of its eyes with a concentration of eye cells that see directly in front. This is to ensure they capture their prey whilst in fast flight.
This is PART 1 OF A IV PART SERIES - subscribe to our daily newsletter to find out more about this fascinating creature. Make sure you see part II tomorrow on their fabulous copulation methods.