Dragonflies are an ancient species of insect that have been around for about 300 million years. The lifecycle of a dragonfly is fascinating as they go through two different stages. The exact amount of time a dragonfly will live depends on many factors, including the species, the weather, and whether predators in the area are likely to eat them.
It’s estimated that there are over 5000 dragonfly species in the world. You may have heard the myth that dragonflies only live for a day; this is incorrect. Most species live up to six months as an adult. Some dragonfly species live as larvae or nymphs for years before turning into mature adults. Let’s look at the lifecycle of a dragonfly and discuss how long on average dragonflies live.
Quick Answer: Dragonflies live 4 Years as a nymph and 3-6 months as adults.
How long do dragonflies live?
Dragonflies go through two different stages in their development and will only spend a very short amount of their life as fully-fledged adults. Most species of dragonfly will live for up to four years as a nymph. During this time, they will grow very slowly, and as they get bigger, they will molt their skin. They can shed their skin up to seventeen times over the years. Finally, when the nymph has developed sufficiently, it will mature into an adult. Most species will only live for between three and six months as adult dragonflies.
The dragonfly’s lifecycle starts with an adult female who will lay eggs after breeding. The dragonfly will lay her eggs in a moist location near still water or in an area that’s likely to fill with water in the future.
The Larvae Stage
After the dragonflies’ eggs hatch, the first stage in the lifecycle starts. At this stage, the dragonfly will live as larvae, called a ‘nymph’. The nymph will live in the water for between one and four years, depending on the species. During this time, it will eat the larvae of other insects and feast on small tadpoles and sometimes even fish.
Dragonflies don’t turn into a chrysalis and then emerge as an adult as butterflies and moths do. Rather than pupating, the young nymph will move from its aquatic environment onto the riverbank, where it will hang from a branch or steam and dry out in the sun. The nymph will undergo metamorphosis and turn into a dragonfly.
The Adult Stage
After transforming into a dragonfly, the newly emerged adult sits in the sunshine for a few hours so that its wings get stronger and dry out. At this stage, the dragonfly is known as a teneral, a Latin word that means tender and soft. During this stage, the dragonfly is vulnerable to predators and can even be eaten by other dragonfly nymphs. Many dragonflies die at this stage as they can be knocked down by a boat or blown around in the wind.
Once the dragonfly is strong enough to fly, it will be safer and become a vicious predator. At this stage, the young dragonflies may be eaten by birds, lizards, frogs, and even fish. They are generally good at self-defense, have excellent eye sight, and fly quickly, allowing many of them to adapt and escape from predators.
Dragonflies are very agile and live near water, eating other flying insects, such as mosquitos. Some larger species of dragonfly will even pray on damselflies. The adult dragonfly will live for between three and six months long enough to mate and lay eggs. Many things affect the length of a dragonfly; if the weather is good, they will be more likely to survive well into adulthood. Dragonflies prefer warm, dry weather and can be affected by rain and strong winds. If the weather cooperates, they will live up to six months.
However, if the weather is cold, wet, and windy, dragonflies won’t survive long and will reproduce and die within a few weeks. It’s unusual for a dragonfly to die of old age. Most will either be eaten by a predator or die due to harsh weather conditions.
While dragonflies can live for years as a nymph, the adult stage of their lives doesn’t last long. Most dragonflies live between three and six months, depending on the weather conditions and whether they fall prey to lizards, birds, or frogs. Most dragonflies only live long enough to reproduce.