Sunday, 11 May 2014

Meet the Insects - Emperor Dragonfly

Anax Imperator
Emperor Dragonfly
Anax Imperator. Photo svdmolen wikicommons

This is the first in a series of blogs giving background information on some of the insects featured in Entomology. As it happens this particular insect was also featured in Bug Music - a series of insect poems for children I wrote 15 years ago (you can see this condition of mine has been active for some years...)

When I talk about the dragonfly to school children I usually ask if any of their teachers claim to see out of the back of their head. Look at the picture and you can see that dragonflies really can - though what they see we really can't imagine.

This insect also has a set of big scary jaws which crunch up midges and mosquitoes and uses four independently moving wings to fly perform aerial acrobatics that allow it to hunt on the wing. It's a perfectly designed predator. Remember when TV aliens always tended to look like insects? A giant dragonfly would be terrifying.

But dragonflies also have fascinating life cycles. All insects have fascinating life cycles. It might be a while since you stopped to think what actually happens to a caterpillar! Dragonflies don't have quite such a profound metamorphosis and they do it bit by bit. The egg hatches into a larvae, which we call a nymph (entomologists are a romantic lot) which sheds its hard skin 3 times as it grows and changes into a fully grown dragonfly. Some nice young biologists from Sri Lanka have posted some great pictures here.

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