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Dragonflies
Dragonflies LifeCycle
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Dragonflies LifeCycle
Different types of Dragonflys
Different types of Dragonflys2
Dragonfly Myths
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Damselfly
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Life Cycle

Like dragonflies everywhere, our desert species start life as a tiny egg, not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Most species scatter their eggs freely over a waterway or insert them into vegetation that is floating in or overhanging water. Some eggs hatch within weeks; others over winter before hatching. The larval stage is called a nymph or, more properly, a larva. Dragonfly larvae look like fierce dragons and crawl about underwater hunting for food. A unique feature is their labium, a lower lip that they project to hook prey. While damselfly larvae have feather-like gills at the end of their abdomen, dragonfly larvae do not. All go through about a dozen molts, or instars, before crawling out onto a stem or rock to emerge.

After a period of time, from a month or two to even a few years of growing and molting, the larva crawls out of the water. Its skin then cracks open over the thorax.  The adult dragonfly slowly emerges from this old shell; some species even hang down from it limply at first. Then after its legs harden, it pulls itself upright and its body and wings begin to expand and harden. After an hour or more the new adult dragonfly flies off. The empty shell that is left behind is called the exuvia.
Most adult dragonflies live for only several weeks or months; adult damselflies live for an even shorter period. During this time they feed on mosquitoes, gnats and other small insects (at a rate of very many each day); they mature sexually, and then mate.
Male dragonflies defend territories while awaiting the females or actively search for them. When the male finds a female, he grasps the female with the clasp-like holders at the end of his abdomen. Mating occurs in the unique “wheel” position. The females can use ovipositors to insert their eggs into plant stems or just scatter them over the water, sometimes ovipositing while in tandem flight with the male. The larvae that hatch develop without need of parenting
 
 

The Southwest deserts offer many great places to begin/continue the study of dragonflies, and some of the nation’s most beautiful species occur here, such as the Painted Damsel or the Filigree Skimmer.  So, just find a spot near water on a calm, sunny day; any natural or artificial body of water will do. Desert parks would always be an excellent destination. The easiest species of dragonflies for beginners to observe and learn usually occur at still waters such as lakes and pond, as they tend to perch, while those along the rivers aren't always so obliging.

Dragonflies need clean water in which to breed, so treat our waterways kindly. To encourage them in your yard, a pond is perfect, and the less fish in it, the better for the Odonata. Native water plants are easy to include, but even ponds with ornamental plants will provide some habitat for them. Short of a pond (even a half barrel will attract damselflies), provide strong perches in sunny areas from which they can pursue their prey. And of course, avoid the use of pesticides! Since Dragonflies eat mosquitoes, even as underwater nymph, they can be used to help control those mosquito species, including those that carry West Nile Disease, but they alone will not completely wipe out a mosquito population.
Like hummingbirds, and unlike the butterflies, dragonflies can maneuver quickly, making rapid zigzag maneuvers. Occasionally though, you’ll find one basking in the sun or claiming and defending a territory on a pond or creek where it can be observed at leisure. Otherwise, enjoy the aerial antics of one of Earth's very first fliers: indeed, they predate the dinosaurs and are among our most ancient creatures.
The following are a few of the most common dragonfly species found the Southwest deserts.

 

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By Ashley M. Randall

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