Dragonfly Life Cycle

Dragonfly Life Cycle

Introduction to Dragonfly

With the ability to live as an aquatic larva under-water for almost 2 years, the insect dragonfly belongs to the insect order Odonata. Dragonflies from the order Odonata are physically large, robust, and stouter looking members belonging to the suborder called Anisoptera. Dragonflies falling under the sub-order of Anisoptera are also considered as ‘true dragonfly’.

Life Cycle of Dragonfly:

Life cycle of a dragonfly is divided into three simple stages: the egg, the nymph and the adult. Initially, the dragonfly is out for hunting their respective mating partners. After mating the female dragonfly carries her eggs and gently places it on still water as running or moving water might wash away all the eggs to fish feeding areas.

Since complete metamorphism includes four stages of development – egg, larva, pupa and adult, the dragonfly falls under the incomplete metamorphism with three stages – egg, the nymph and the adult.

The Egg: A dragonfly begins their life in or near water in the form of eggs. After mating between the male and female dragonfly, the female dragonfly places her eggs at a stationary spot; in still water or pond. The eggs take one to five weeks to hatch.

The Larva: It is interesting to note that even though we’ve seen dragonflies mostly flying around us during hot summer months, they spend most of their life underwater as a larva. They can live underwater for as long as two years, and this is considered to be the longest stage in the life cycle of a dragonfly. After hatching, the larva has six tiny legs, hinged jaw and winged sheaths.

The Adult: When the larva reaches the final stages of larva, it shifts to the edge of the water and learns to breathe in air for the first time. Once the spot is found, the larva slowly pushes out of their new shell body from their old shell body to emerge as an adult dragonfly. The dragonfly looks pale and has reflective wings.

Dragonfly Metamorphism:

Unlike other insects that fly, dragonflies don’t have the pupa stage in their life cycle, and therefore have incomplete metamorphosis. Incomplete metamorphism occurs when there is an absence of the pupa stage. In complete metamorphism, there are all the stages – egg, the larva, the pupa and the adult. Dragonflies are also called Hemimetabolous as they do not have a Pupa stage in their life cycle.


Once the dragonfly is mature, they travel back to the shore or nearest water body in order to procreate. The male dragonfly becomes territorial and obstructs other potential male dragonflies who enter their area and take control of female dragonflies. After this, the adult dragonfly mates and the entire process of breeding starts all over again.

Frequently Asked Questions on Dragonfly Life Cycle


What is the difference between dragonflies and damselflies?

While dragonfly falls under the order Anisoptera which means “unequal-winged”, the damselflies belong to the suborder Zygoptera which means “equal-winged”. There is a vivid physical distinction between the two kinds. Wings of damselflies are all uniform in shape and size but the wings of dragonflies are in different size and shape.


What is the life expectancy of a dragonfly?

While the larva (nymph) stage can last as long as two years, the adult dragonfly lives for 6 months.


Why do dragonflies dip their tails in water frequently?

When a dragonfly dips its tail in the water, it is laying eggs. Dragonflies place their eggs in ponds or any stationary water to protect the eggs from getting washed away in an otherwise flowing water.


What do dragonflies eat?

A dragonfly eats any insect or living organism that is smaller in size compared to the dragonfly. Few examples are midges, mosquitoes and butterflies in case the dragonfly is bigger than the butterfly. The larva dragonfly which lives underwater eats any species that are smaller in size. Certain species of dragonfly also eat spiders directly from the web.

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