This dragonfly is a male eastern amberwing.

I have become fascinated with dragonflies.

Because I live near water, there are many buzzing around my house and yard.

When I became a Master Naturalist, I loved that the icon was a dragonfly.

Lately, I see so many items with dragonflies on them, including vases, pictures, garden art and flags, jewelry, candle holders, coffee mugs, tablecloths and greeting cards. So I must not be alone in my appreciation for these creatures.

I wanted to learn a little more about them, so I did some research.

The dragonfly is one of the oldest insects and is thought to have flown the Earth before dinosaurs. The largest one on record was found fossilized in England and had a wingspan of 24 inches. Today, the largest one is in South America and has a wingspan of 7 inches. It gets its name from a myth that said the insect used to be a dragon. Its scientific name comes from a Greek word “odonata,” which means “toothed.” A dragonfly does not have teeth, but has very strong, beastly mandibles capable of crushing its prey.

There are two species: dragonflies, which have thicker bodies and hold their wings out when resting, and damselflies, which are slender and fold their wings over their backs. Both have two sets of wings, allowing them to fly backward and forward, up and down, hover and turn around to land.

They are beneficial to have around, eating several hundred mosquitoes, gnats, termites and flies each day. They live about a year, although most of their lives (the egg and nymph stages) is spent in the water. We see the adult period, which may last only a few months.

The beauty of these creatures comes from their colors and wing pattern variations. Dragonflies can change colors depending on temperature; age and gender also play a role.

So whether they are blue, green, amber, black, red, pink, yellow or orange, they are striking. It’s no wonder they are now a designer’s choice for use in textiles and products.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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