Winsome Critters: A Look at Dragonflies Lesson Plan

When I was little, I loved spending time at my pond. Every year, when the snow would melt and the pond thawed, I would periodically walk around the base looking for frogs, salamanders, and turtles. The first sign of summer was always spotting the first dragonfly nymph on the side of the bank. I collected all the Dragonfly nymphs I could find and put them in a bucket. Once I felt my bucket was full enough, I would sit on the lawn and put them all over me so that I could watch them emerge. It was amazing to have a hundred dragonflies dry their freshly unwrinkled wings on me to eventually all fly off one by one into their newly flight driven world. Dragonflies are a huge part of freshwater ecosystems. They provide food for amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and other insects. They also help limit mosquito populations, which if you ask me, is a wicked nice bonus of the Dragonfly. Also quick note from experience, these guys can bite if pushed hard enough, learned the hard way with a butterfly net.

Dragonfly Facts

(Order of Odonata)

  • Dragonflies need at least 63 degree weather to emerge.
  • If you want to see a nymph turning into their final adult stage, the time to view this would be the middle of May to early June.
  • Dragonfly nymphs and adult Dragonflies are predatory. Nymphs eat other insects, pollywogs, and smaller fish. Adults pray on other flying insects like mosquitos!
  • Dragonfly nymphs hang out on the shorelines of ponds, lakes, and vernal pools. During the day you can pick through submerged leaf debris and find them.
  • Dragonflies have an incomplete metamorphosis due to not having a pupal stage like butterflies and moths.
  • Dragonflies lay their eggs in plant debris. Their eggs take a week to hatch.
  • The nymph stage can last about 5 years!!!
  • Before turning into an adult Dragonfly, nymphs stop eating for up to two weeks to prepare for emergence.
  • Dragonfly nymphs use jet propulsion to move through the water, by forcing the water out their rear ends. In other words, they move through the water with jet propulsion farts!
  • Dragonfly wings move separately, which has been studied by science in use for flying devices like helicopters.

More ideas for learning about Dragonflies:

  • Hang out by a pond, lake, or vernal spring, at the end of May, to try and catch them emerging.
  • Any time of the year you can catch dragonfly nymphs, just remember that in the winter the chances of them surviving, after being observed for a while, are low due to drastic temp changes.
  • Have a Dragonfly Nymph Race.
  • Read about CIA Dragonfly Robots!
  • Check out some other cool Dragonfly Robots.
  • Watch this Slow Motion Video on Dragonflies.
  • Draw some Dragonfly details for your Nature Journal, as I did below.
Nature Journaling.

Creature Quiz

  1. What is the stage before an adult dragonfly?
  2. Do Dragonfly wings move together? Or Separately?
  3. What do Dragonflies eat?
  4. When is the perfect time to catch Dragonflies emerging?
  5. How long does the nymph stage last?
  6. Why do Dragonflies have an incomplete metamorphosis?
  7. How long does it take Dragonfly eggs to hatch?
  8. Draw a picture showing how Dragonfly nymphs move through the water.