My family and I have been spotting lots of dragonflies – and some damselflies – lately. We have even had the privilege of witnessing some emerge from their nymph skins. We find them so fascinating and beautiful. And we really appreciate their mosquito-eating abilities. My husband, children, and I once all snuggled in our hammock together and watched as a dragonfly swooped over and over picking mosquitoes out of the air. It was a marvelous show!
So, my children decided that they would like to learn more about these dazzling dragonflies. Here are some fun facts that we discovered…
- Dragonflies have been around for 300 million years! The prehistoric version of this insect had a wingspan of up to 24 inches.
- Dragonflies and their cousins, the damselflies, belong to the order Odonata – which means “toothed one”.
- Dragonflies don’t actually have teeth but do have some strong mandibles!
- Dragonfly larva are aquatic. This stage can last any where from one to six years.
- Dragonfly nymphs molt up to 15 times.
- A dragonfly breathes oxygen through gills located inside its abdomen. Damselflies’ gills are located externally.
- Dragonflies can fly straight up, down, sideways, and backwards. They can even hover.
- Dragonflies sometimes swarm – which means flying together in a large group – for either feeding or migratory purposes. If you are ever lucky enough to see one, visit The Dragonfly Swarm Project and record your observation.
- Dragonflies are the subject of folklore all over the world, From China to Sweden. Some are more pleasant than others. I won’t tell you what my mother grew up believing.
- Dragonflies: Catching – Identifying – How and Where They Live by Chris Earley
- Dragonfly (Creepy Crawly World) by Ting Morris
- Are You a Dragonfly? by Judy Allen
- Stokes Beginners Guide to Dragonflies by Nikula et al.
- Dragonflies by Pieter Van Dokkum
- A Dazzle of Dragonflies by F. Mitchell and J. Lasswell
- This really cool video from Smarter Everyday – Dragonfly Wings in Slow Motion
After observing and learning more about dragonflies, I wanted to come up with some games to help reinforce what my children learned. I came across this outdoor game about the life-cycle of dragonflies and, with my children’s input, tweaked it a bit. This is what we came up with…
– One area of our yard was set up as a “pond” with prey (which were really various sized balls) scattered all around. My children, pretending to be dragonfly nymphs, used nets to “eat up” prey. Once they had ten in their nets they could crawl out of the pond, deposit the balls in a bucket or bin for later use, and find a place to rest.
– They scrunched down and slowly rose until they were standing with arms outstretched – which represented the dragonfly emerging from its nymph skin. They could then fly around with arms flapping and start catching mosquitoes (which were represented by bubbles).
– One dragonfly then flew to the bucket of balls and passed it to the other dragonfly (to represent mating) who then deposited the “eggs” into the pond area. Now the cycle can begin again.
You could come up with your own variations of this life-cycle game. For example, my children thought it would be a lot more fun to use a kiddie pool as the pond and to use tongs to represent the nymph’s mask pincers. If you give it a try I’d love to hear how your children enjoyed it and if you made any adjustments. We’ll also be making clay dragonflies to reinforce learning the various body parts. For younger children there are lots of cute and easy dragonfly crafts. You can find a nice collections here.
I hope you and your children are feeling inspired to head out for some dragonfly spotting and to learn more about these amazing insects. Don’t forget about recording observations in those nature journals!
Have a wonder-filled week.