I’ve always enjoyed it when dragonflies visited the garden, but I realized I didn’t know much about them.
I knew that dragonflies had finely tuned, 360-degree vision, because I knew how hard it was to get close enough to them for a photo. I knew they were territorial, because one of them took ownership of the tip of our car antenna for about a week whenever it was parked in the driveway. I’d seen photos of their Jurassic Period fossils, and I marveled at accounts of their ancestors with their 3-foot wingspans. But that’s about all I’d learned about dragonflies, and so recently I went about filling in the gaps of my knowledge.
What I found was a world so weird and disturbing, I have to wonder if maybe ignorance is bliss. The weirdness begins when they are immature nymphs, living underwater (you have been forewarned):
Weird Facts about Dragonfly Nymphs
- They breathe through gills in their rectum.
- They propel themselves by shooting water out of their anuses.
- To prevent contamination of their own water supply, their fecal matter comes out neatly pre-packaged in a membrane.
- Some species of nymphs can fire these poop-pellets a distance of 20 feet (no one knows why this would be of benefit).
- When threatened, some nymphs will play dead.
- They are cannibals, as are the adults.
- If they lose a leg, they can sprout a new one on the next molt.
The adults are no less bizarre:
Weird Facts about Dragonfly Adults
- Males have two sex organs. Before mating, they move the sperm from one to the other—from the tip of the abdomen to the mid-section.
- When ready to mate, the male grabs the female by the head, and they fly in tandem. Sometimes he accidentally scratches her or pokes a hole in her head doing this, though she will usually survive such trauma.
- Before mating, the male will try to scoop out from the female the sperm of any other males that may have beaten him to the punch.
- When mating actually begins, the male and female are linked in a “copulation wheel” that loosely resembles a heart shape. (Awwww.)
- To regulate their body temperature, some dragonflies can change color.
- Some take part in migrations of hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Left with a disturbing heap of knowledge that I knew I couldn’t unlearn, I concluded that in the future, maybe I should stick with plants.