Dragonfly Emerging

Cleaning up my kayak (which had been upside down in the weeds) a few mornings ago, I found what I first thought were live bugs attached to the plant stems. Then I realized that they were only a shell of a bug (correct term is exuvia). They all had a hole on the top, right below the head.

dragonfly larval shell

I also noticed a beautiful dragonfly (later id’ed as a female calico pennant) that didn’t seem in a hurry to fly away. Its wings appeared rather shiny, almost glossy. (I now know that this is evidence of a recently emerged dragonfly called a teneral.) I wondered if there could be a connection. Over the weekend I attended a dragonfly and damselfly workshop given by Kurt Mead, author of “Dragonflies of the North Woods”. I learned that there is most definitely a connection. Our class had the exciting experience of witnessing a dragonfly emerging.

female calico pennant dragonfly

The beautiful dragonfly starts out as a rather ugly bug (referred to as a nymph or larva). The female dragonfly lays her eggs on a plant in the water or sometimes right in the water of a pond or marshy area. The dragonfly larvae hatch from the egg and live in water until they are ready to emerge as  dragonflies. The nymph or larva stage of development can take several years. During this time the larvae molt several times. When the larva has matured and is ready for its magical transformation, it crawls out of the water and finds a place to perch, such as the stem of a plant. It stabilizes itself by hooking its claws into the perch. After a short rest, the process begins with the skin on the back of the head breaking open and the thorax emerging.

After a couple hours of dragonfly information in the classroom,  our instruction moved outdoors to the edge of a pond. There we learned how to net and identify dragonflies. Our instructor Kurt found a nymph to show us. As we were looking at the nymph, Kurt noted a crack forming in the body. View the slideshow below to see what happened next. Pretty amazing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For anyone interested in more information about dragonflies check out the following websites:

Dragonfly Society of the Americas and Minnesota Odonata Survey

Also, an autographed copy of “Dragonflies of the Northwoods” is available directly from the author for $23. (Shipping and taxes are included in that price.)  Email Kurt Mead, info@mndragonfly.org  to request the book.

~ by Pinetree Photo Nature Discovery on July 1, 2013.

8 Responses to “Dragonfly Emerging”

  1. Amazing pictures, Carol. The workshop was perfect timing.

  2. Fabulous slideshow! I had seen these ‘ugly bugs’ and stoned one to death . . . my eyes are poor enough that I did not see the hole in the top of the head. But now I know, nothing to fear. Actually something to rejoice. Thanks, Carol. Your post are beautiful and informative.

  3. Wow! What an amazing show. Thanks for sharing your discovery.

  4. Carol, the images are great and the slideshow is so interesting. How long did the emergence take?

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