Dragonflies and damselflies spend most of their lives underwater, living for 1-5 years as a nymph (larval stage) in ponds, lakes rivers, streams. Aquatic hunters, dragonfly nymphs are carnivorous and feed on water fleas, insects, tadpoles and even small fish.
In spring or summer the fully-grown nymphs climb out of the water onto a plant stem and then over a few hours their skin hardens, cracks open, and the adult dragonfly emerges.
These seven photos show a four-spotted chaser dragonfly emerging from its nymphal skin.
Emerging dragons, the transformation between these two stages in their lifecycle is incredible to watch and can be enjoyed in even the smallest of ponds. However the nymphs do emerge from the water early in the morning so you will have to be up early to enjoy it from start to finish. Its really important to watch from a distance and not disturb the dragonfly, as until the wings harden it can’t fly and is vulnerable.
The adult dragonfly or damselfly now becomes an aerial acrobat – their agility and flying skills are a pure wonder to watch. As adults they live only for a few weeks, feeding on smaller insects, butterflies and even other damselflies. But they are also on the menu of many birds such as sparrows, kingfishers and heron. Our What Dragonfly photo guide will help you identify what species you see.
The dragonfly lifecycle completes as the adult female lays her eggs in the water – this is known as ovipositing.