Nature Nugget – Mosquitohawks

Mosquitohawks, or dragonflies as they are more commonly called, are members of the insect order Odonata. Odonates have two pairs of wings and consist of three suborders: true dragonflies, damselflies, and ancient dragonflies. Except for two living species, the ancient dragonflies are known only from the fossil record. True dragonflies are easily separated from others in that they keep their wings open when at rest. There are nearly 3,000 species of dragonflies worldwide, from the tiny Scarlet Dwarf of Asia with a wingspan of around three-fourths of an inch to the large Bornean Dragonfly of Borneo with a wingspan of around 6.4 inches. Giant dragonflies with wingspans up to 30 inches existed before the flood and are known today from the fossil record.

Dragonflies are excellent flyers and are capable of hovering motionless in one spot, flying backwards, and can even do loops. Unlike other insects, they can flap or beat their four wings independently of each other at different speeds and angles, which allows them great maneuverability. They can flap their wings close to 30 beats a second, which is slow compared to a hoverfly or honey bee, and are capable of flying at speeds of up to 38 miles per hour. Dragonflies have excellent eyesight, with 80 percent of their brain being devoted to sight. Each of their two, large, compound eyes consists of up to 30,000 individual, six-sided lenses. In comparison, our eyes only have one lens each. Together, these smaller lenses enable the dragonfly to have a 360-degree field of view and enable them to detect even the slightest movement up to 40 feet away.

Mosquitohawks, as their other name suggests, are carnivores, feeding on mosquitoes as well as numerous other insects such as gnats, flies, winged termites, and ants. Using their bristle-covered legs to form an oval-shaped basket, they scoop their prey right out of the air. Along with bats, they are the main mosquito eaters on the planet. They often concentrate in swarms over ant and termite mounds when winged individuals are swarming.

Dragonflies lay their eggs in water or damp places at the edge of the water, which hatch into larvae called nymphs. Some species can lay up to 100,000 eggs at a time, but many species only lay one egg at a time but do it frequently throughout the day and over a period of several days. In many species, the male guards the female while she lays eggs. The aquatic nymphs, like the adults, are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of aquatic organisms. Unlike other aquatic insect larvae, dragonfly nymphs have their gills inside their abdomens. They use abdominal muscles to move water into and out of their abdomen to breathe. They can also use these muscles to jet propel themselves away from danger. Depending on the species, the nymphs can live up to four years and shed their skins up to 15 times before becoming adults. After leaving the water and becoming adults, they live a maximum of only a few months.

Dragonflies are often very colorful and can come in about any color of the spectrum. Some have unusually shaped abdomens. They also sport interesting names such as: clubtails, sanddragons, snaketails, forceptails, boghaunters, sundragons, baskettails, meadowhawks, dragonlets, pondhawks, pennants, and more!

Sin has marred nature with death and ugliness and with insect pests that plague us, but God, in His love for us, has preserved beauty and balance in nature, such as with the dragonfly. If it were not for the dragonflies, bats, and birds, the earth would be overrun with insect pests. “Nature testifies of an intelligence, a presence, an active energy, that works in and through her laws. There is in nature the continual working of the Father and the Son.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 114.

David Arbour writes from his home in DeQueen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: