Adult dragonflies catch people's attention. This is especially true when there are lots of them flying at once, circling and swooping around a pond.
Dragonflies are excellent fliers that seem to be performing acrobatics. Once the weather is warm, you should be able to see them flying all day and into the early evening.
Dragonflies live as aquatic insects before maturing into flying insects. Weather changes influence how long dragonflies live. Most of our species complete their life cycle in one year. A few, especially those species that lay their eggs in temporary water, mature quickly and emerge as adults in less than a year, as long as the is warm.
Some of our larger species may need more than 12 months to mature before they emerge from the 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. 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 you 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. Some will climb up plant stems; you may find the skins they leave behind on cattails, or other plants.
Some stream dwelling dragonflies may crawl out onto tree branches before they emerge as adults. Some species transform into adults on gravel or sand bars near the water's edge.
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. A determined search of the state will likely uncover more species. Many of our 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.
We have our resident dragonflies, but we expect to see a few strays each year. These are species