Dragonflies, the flying aces of the insect world!

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Despite having six legs the Dragonfly doesn’t walk very well. However, it is a great flyer with four independent wings. Dragonflies can hover in one place, fly extremely fast and even fly upside-down and backward. Photo by DON BARTLING

“Advice from a dragonfly,

Spend time near the water, Be colorful, Enjoy a good reed, Zoom in on your dreams, Appreciate long summer days, Keep your eyes open, Just wing it!”

— Ilan Shamir

While boating on the Kootenai River my wife drew my attention to a dragonfly floating in the water. I stopped to rescue him from the river suspecting he just had wet wings. Carefully, I put him on my paper cup to dry his wings and to get reoriented. A short time later he flew off like a miniature blue helicopter. I have always been fascinated by dragonflies.

Dragonflies are flat-out terrifying if you’re a gnat, mosquito or other small bug. They don’t simply chase down their prey. Instead, they snag them from the air with calculated aerial ambushes. Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target and adjust their flight to intercept prey. They’re so skilled that they have up to a 95 percent success rate when hunting.

A dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata, infraorder Antsoptera. Adult dragonflies are characterized by large, multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, sometimes with colored patches, and an elongated body.

There are few species in the animal kingdom that can match the dragonfly for spectacular flying ability. Dragonflies have muscles in the thorax that can work each of their four wings independently. This allows them to change the angle of each wing and practice superior agility in the air.

Dragonflies can fly in any direction, including sideways, upside-down and backward, and can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. This amazing ability is one factor in their success as aerial ambush predators — they can move in on unsuspecting prey from any direction. Not only are they agile, but they’re fast, with some species reaching a top speed of 18 miles per hour.

Dragonflies have near 360-degree vision, with just one blind spot directly behind them. This extraordinary vision is one reason why they’re able to keep a watch on a single insect within a swarm and go after it while avoiding mid-air collisions with other insects in the swarm.

Dragonflies lay their eggs in water, and when the larvae hatch, they live underwater for up to two years. Actually, depending on the altitude and latitude, some species may stay in the larval state for up to six years. They’ll molt up to 17 times as they grow and get ready to head to the surface and transform into the dragonflies we see in the air.

The dragonfly does an amazing job of helping humans by controlling the population of insects, especially those that bug us most, such as mosquitoes and biting flies. They also inspire us to create new technology based on their incredible skills at flight and vision. Dragonflies have been in existence more than 300 million years, even before the dinosaur roamed the earth.

Enjoy Boundary County and its amazing wildlife!

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