Dragonfly FAQ

I often get questions about dragonflies and damselflies from friends and by e-mail from people who have visited this site. Some of the most frequently asked and interesting questions are compiled and answered at this site. My idea is update this page when I get new questions. Please help me to improve the page asking me all you wonder about damselflies and dragonflies.

Is it true that dragonflies live juste one single day?
No, a dragonfly begin it's life as a aquatic living larvae, depending on species and climate it will live between a couple of weeks and ten years in the water. Then a sunny day it will leave the water and hatch into a flying dragonfly. The length of the lifetime as adult is hard to determine due to great differences between species but in laboratories adult dragonflies have been living for 13 weeks.

How many dragonfly species exists?
For a quite long time the number has been estimated to "about 5000". Two dragonfly researchers: Martin Schorr and Martin Lindeboom wasn't satisfied with this estimation and decided to count the number of known dragonfly species. The current number is: Zygoptera (damselflies) 2603 Anisozygoptera 2, Anisoptera (dragonflies) 2808. Adding the numbers gives us 5413 damselflies and dragonflies. New species are still discovered. many damselflies and dragonflies live in rain forests were few dragonfly researchers have been.

How big can a dragonfly be?
The biggest current living dragonfly is the Central American Megaloprepus coerulatus which has a wingspan of 19 cm. (7.5 inch). The biggest known dragonfly is the Meganeura monyi, it's known from fossils and had a wingspan of 70 cm. (27.6 inch).

What dragonfly is the smallest in the world?
There are several dragonflies in the genus Agriocnemis with a wingspan of just 17-18 mm. (7/10 inch).

I've seen that dragonflies are pretty fast flyers, how fast do they fly?
It's hard to measure the flight speed of a dragonfly since they almost never fly with constant speed in a straight line. Estimations indicates that the maximum speed for a dragonfly is somewhere in between 30 and 60 km/h (19 to 38 m.p.h.). The maximum flight speed varies a lot between different species. As a thumb rule a bigger dragonfly fly faster than a smaller.

Where do dragonflies live?
As mentioned above dragonflies start their life in water, therefore dragonflies are often found near water: Ponds, lakes, canals, streams, rivers and swamps. Some dragonflies who have a short larvae cycle (a few weeks) also can live in rain puddles after heavy rains. As dragonflies are very good flyers they sometimes are seen a very long way from water.

For how long time have dragonflies been living at our planet?
Dragonflies are very old, about 300 million years. Huge dragonflies were flying when the dinosaurs ruled our world.

Were can I learn more about dragonflies?
There's a lot of dragonfly sites at Internet. Have a look at my link page to find more interesting stuff. There's also some mailing lists, the biggest one is Odonata, to join it drop an e-mail to odonatalist.

Page updated June 21 2008
Copyright 2004-2008 Martin Peterson