Facts about Dragonflies

Libelle is the German word for “dragonfly”, an important and beautiful member of the insect order Odonata, suborder Anisoptera. Here are some interesting facts about this lovable little creature.

How long have dragonflies existed? How many species are known?

The Libelle software has been around for 25 years. In this regard the “Libelle”, or dragonflies, have beaten us, as they are an ancient group of animals. The ancestors of today’s species flew over 300 million years ago in the forests of the Carboniferous period, during which today’s hard coal was formed. They experienced the appearance of dinosaurs 265 million years ago and survived their disappearance 65 million years ago.

Today, about 5,600 species are known worldwide, divided into two main groups, the large and the small dragonflies (more accurately damselflies). Although the large dragonflies usually include the larger species, the classification is not based on body size, but rather on the construction of their wings. For the damselfly, the wings are approximately the same size but folded backwards or tucked away when sitting. The dragonfly’s hind wings are wider and are spread out horizontally when sitting.

What sets dragonflies apart?

A peculiarity among insects are the dragonfly’s wings. The wings can be moved individually and independently of each other, allowing spectacular flight maneuvers. They can remain in one spot like helicopters, and certain individual species can even fly backwards. The frequency of their wings is relatively low compared to other insect groups (at about 30 beats per second) but large species can still reach speeds up to 50 km/h (31 mph).

Where do dragonflies live?

Water plays a central role in the life of dragonflies. Like all insects, dragonflies develop from eggs. A larva hatches from the egg, which metamorphosizes itself several times. The larvae of all dragonfly species live in water. The eggs are therefore laid directly in, or in the immediate vicinity of, a body of water. The eggs of the more ancient species are drilled into aquatic plants with an ovipositor but can also be laid into dead plant parts and even into dry soil. The eggs of many species can also survive a certain time outside the water; this way, even times of drought can be bridged. The larvae hatching from the eggs, however, do depend on water to grow.

The adult larva leaves the water, and out of this last larval stage hatches the dragonfly in its finalized form as a flying insect. In contrast to other insect groups, such as flies or butterflies, the dragonfly has no pupal stage.

About 80 dragonfly species live in Central Europe, and many bodies of water are colonized by these species. There are running water species that specifically colonize riverheads, while other species are characteristic for large rivers such as the Rhine, Danube, and Elbe. Moors, swamps, lakes, puddles, and ponds form a wide range of habitats in stagnant waters.

Can dragonflies really sting? Are they dangerous?

Dragonflies are generally regarded as aggressive, prickly, and sometimes mordacious. It is time to dispel this still widespread misconception about the alleged danger of dragonflies.

Since the above-mentioned ovipositor resembles the biting apparatus of other insects, this has led to the widespread belief that dragonflies can bite and are therefore dangerous. Colloquial names for dragonflies including “horse-stinger” or “devil’s darning needle” are a testament to this misinterpretation. Dragonflies are completely harmless, except to their prey, because all dragonfly-types are predatory as larvae and as flight-insects. They usually consume large quantities of different insects like mosquitoes and flies.

Despite the impressively big, powerful and sharp jaws (mandibles), that few insect exoskeletons can withstand, dragonflies cannot bite humans. The chewing tools of dragonflies are completely harmless for us human beings!

Dragonflies are not poisonous, as they have no poison glands that could lead to poisoning by stinging, biting, or touching.

Dragonflies are fascinating creatures and bioindicators that need our protection!

Humans usually meet dragonflies at their water breeding grounds, where you can observe the individual species and make exciting observations about their behavior. The occurrence of the individual species gives good information about the condition of the respective habitat, which makes dragonflies excellent bioindicators. However, with the threats to their native habitats increasing, the threats to dragonflies also increase. Their original, near-natural habitats are acutely threatened in today’s cultural landscape. In Baden-Württemberg (home of Libelle’s software development headquarters), the species of moors and marsh landscapes show dramatic declines in population, as these habitats have been strongly reduced by human activity. Climate change also contributes to the endangerment of these landscapes through long drought periods. Almost 50% of the native dragonfly species in Germany are threatened and are on the red list of endangered species. It is therefore necessary to closely monitor the development of the populations and take protective measures. By protecting dragonflies, we will ultimately be able to preserve entire biotic communities and thus contribute to a better environment.

The “Schutzgemeinschaft Libellen” (Conservation Community for Dragonflies) in Baden-Württemberg stands for the protection of insect-dragonflies.
Read more about dragonflies and the valuable work of the conservation community!

To protect your valuable data, turn to the “dragonfly software,” Libelle!
Take a look around our website.

Special thanks to Mister Dr. Theodor Benken and Mister Dr. Franz-Josef Schiel from “Schutzgemeinschaft Libellen” in Baden-Württemberg for the text and pictures.

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