Dragonflies & damselflies (Order Odonata)

Dragonflies and damselflies, which together form the insect Order Odonata, have aquatic immature stages that live in a variety of freshwater habitats. The adults are common around rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, swamps and even temporary pools. However, strong-flying and migratory species may be found far from water.

Damselflies and dragonflies have two pairs of stiff, wings with a dense network of veins. Most fly during the day but some are active only at dusk and dawn (crepuscular). All are predators, catching insects on the wing, or gathering them and spiders from vegetation. Their large eyes give them excellent vision. All of their spiny legs are directed forwards under their heads so they can easily grasp prey and consume it while still flying.

Females lay eggs on the surface of water or insert them into the stems of water plants or soft mud. Their immature stages, or nymphs, are also predatory, feeding on aquatic invertebrates, tadpoles and even small fish. The nymphs have an extendible bottom lip which can be shot out to capture prey. When the nymphs are fully grown they crawl out of the water onto protruding rocks or vegetation where the adult emerges. In several species, newly emerged and mature adults differ in coloration, with powdery deposits developing on the body with age.

There are 324 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Australia.

A freshly emerged adult dragonfly hangs from the shed skin of its final nymphal stage. The pale body of the dragonfly is yet to harden.A freshly emerged adult dragonfly hangs from the shed skin of its final nymphal stage. The pale body of the dragonfly is yet to harden.

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