Ever wonder what came out of the empty shells that you see along the lakeshore?
Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often on floating or emergent plants. When laying eggs, some species will submerge themselves completely in order to lay their eggs on a good surface. Most of a dragonfly’s life is spent in the nymph form, beneath the water’s surface, using internal gills to breathe, and using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates or even vertebrates such as tadpoles, fish, etc. The larval stage of large dragonflies may last as long as five years. In smaller species, this stage may last between two months and three years. When the larva is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other emergent plant at night. Exposure to air causes the larvae to begin breathing. The skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its old larval skin, waits for the sun to rise, pumps up its wings, and flies off to feed on midges and flies. The adult stage of larger species of dragonfly can last as long as four months. (from Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia)
The above photo shows a dragonfly that has just emerged from it’s larvae. If you look closely you can see the spent skin just above the head. It’s hard to believe that this huge dragonfly spent it’s early life in the little shell.
During the summer when birding can get a little slow, some birders have taken up the hobby of dragonfly identification. In fact there is a society of people devoted to just that subject. Check out this website for more information: Odonata Central