Dragonfly: Key Facts

Did you know that there are thousands of dragonfly species? And that each one looks vastly different from the rest? Keep reading to learn more about these and other dragonfly key facts!

Quick Facts About Dragonflies

Scientific Name:Order: Odonata 
Infraorder: Anisoptera
Type of Animal:Insect
Number of Species:Around 3,000
Physical Description:Generally large flying insects with slender, brightly-colored bodies and two sets of usually-transparent wings. A dragonfly has a widened thorax and a large head that is mostly made up of its large eyes. Wings may be completely transparent or may have colored bands on them. The lower wings are generally broader than the upper wings. 
Distribution:Widely distributed throughout the world; found on every continent except Antarctica.
Habitat:Primarily wetland habitats such as ponds, marshes, swamps, and tropical regions.
Size:Varies widely depending on species; wingspan range from 0.75 inches (scarlet dwarf) to 5 inches (giant darner). 
Diet:Opportunistic insectivore; will eat a wide variety of insects, including:
– Mosquitoes
– Flies
– Beetles
– Water insects
Lifespan:Varies widely depending on species; from several months to several years, including while in nymph (larval) stage.
Life Stages:Three: egg, nymph, and adult

What is a Dragonfly?

The name dragonfly refers to any of about 3,000 species of flying insect found throughout the world, particularly in tropical and wetland regions.

Dragonflies are powerful flying insects, fearsome predators of the insect world. They eat a variety of other insects and have various methods for hunting these insects; most often, they use their superior flying ability to catch their next meal in midair.

Dragonflies lay their eggs in or near freshwater sources, such as ponds and swamps. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which live in the water, hunting water insects as well as tadpoles and small fish.

The nymphs shed their skin multiple times, eventually emerging from the water and morphing into adult dragonflies and gaining their wings. Dragonflies live in the adult stage from a few weeks to several months, depending on the species.

Adult dragonflies tend to be brightly colored and have clear wings, though sometimes the wings also have colored markings on them. They have large heads containing large eyes that nearly touch on the top of their heads; due to eye structure, many dragonflies have nearly 360-degree vision.

Check out this video to see some of the most beautiful dragonflies in the world.

Are Dragonflies Dangerous?

Dragonflies are often associated with legends or superstitions. In some parts of the world, they are seen as good luck charms and symbols of prosperity and happiness; but in other regions, they are thought to be associated with death, the devil, and black magic.

Of course, dragonflies aren’t really dangerous; seeing one is not necessarily a bad omen. That said, if you try to handle a dragonfly, you may come away with a painful bite.

Dragonflies are not poisonous or venomous, and their bite isn’t strong enough to draw blood; but it is strong enough to cause momentary pain. Dragonflies don’t make a habit of biting, but they will sometimes bite if they feel threatened. 

For this reason, if you catch a dragonfly in a net or attempt to have one sit on your hand, it’s best to wear gloves when handling it. Again, though, dragonflies are not dangerous as their bite will not cause any lasting effects.


Dragonflies are large flying predators of the insect world. They are often brightly colored, and though they are associated with a range of legends and superstitions, they are not dangerous to humans. You can check also this guide on how to help an injured dragonfly.

Don’t forget to read about other forest insects – these are our popular guides about karner blue butterflies, monarchs and praying mantises.

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