Why Dragonflies Would Make Brilliant Spies

from Wildlife Promise

Dragonflies are impressive, the spies of the natural world. They already have the deceptive cover. They are not dragons. They aren’t even flies! These fascinating creatures have been around for over 350 million years, evolving incredible abilities & sharp senses to take over the world.  That may be a bit dramatic, but if I ever need a secret agent, I’m hiring a dragonSPY.

Vision: They Can Always See You

An Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly. National Wildlife Photo Contest entry by Nicholas Thompson.

An Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly. National Wildlife Photo Contest entry by Nicholas Thompson.

Have you ever tried to catch a dragonfly? It isn’t easy. This is because dragonflies have huge compound eyes with 30,000 lenses, giving them multi-directional vision. Nearly 360 degrees. Their vision may lack detail, but it is sensitive to movement. Basically, it’s nearly impossible to sneak attack dragonflies. Just ask this frog.

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Agility: They Are Masters of Flight

Dragonflies are like helicopters. Or I suppose it’s more accurate to say helicopters are like dragonflies as helicopters were designed to mimic dragonfly abilities. They can fly in any direction (up, down, forward, backward) or simply hover. All four wings move independently, and can rotate on an axis for incredible flight control. They can make hairpin turns mid-flight, changing direction instantly. Oh, and they can fly upside-down. No biggie.

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Efficiency: They Hunt with Accuracy

A lion might only capture a quarter of the prey it pursues. A dragonfly, however, hunts with up to 95% accuracy! They calculate the velocity of prey to anticipate and make the perfect kill. I’m not a math wizard, but that means only about 5% of prey escape a dragonfly. Doesn’t sound promising for prey.

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Speed: They Fly Extremely Fast

National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Gail Norwood managed to capture this rare in-focus image of a dragonfly in flight.

National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Gail Norwood managed to capture this rare in-focus image of a dragonfly in flight.

Dragonflies are the fastest flying insect in the world, clocking speeds of over 35 mph! If you need context, I struggle on the treadmill at 8 mph.

Recruitment: Agent Training Begins Young

Dragonflies begin their life in the larval stage, as an aquatic nymph. A piece of their mouth extends out forward to snatch up prey. This video calls them out as the ‘sharks of the insect world’. Training is rigorous. Dragonflies spend up to 5 years in the larval stage, and only up to about 5 months as an adult.

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Dragonflies vs. Damselflies

You may be thinking, “Well, how do I recognize a dragonfly, to hire one as a spy?” Luckily we have a blog post that will help you distinguish dragonflies from damselflies.

Attract Dragonflies to Your Garden

Certify Your Wildlife GardenIf you don’t want to hire a dragonSPY, simply attract them to your yard! A small pond, coupled with the right habitat conditions, will help you attract dragonflies and damselflies to your garden. Then, make your yard an official NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat®!