There are a lot of creatures out there in the world and it is often those that live the shortest lives that seem to move through it the fastest. One such creature is the dragonfly, who flit through life, its wings beating fast and hard while they can, their lives on average only lasting around one to two weeks, although they can live as long as 8. While to us there may not seem to be a lot of time in those weeks, I wonder what about those lives is so brilliant.
Adult dragonflies are characterised by a pair of large, many-sided compound eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, sometimes with colored patches, and an elongated body. Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, around 300 million years ago. Dragonflies in the Paleozoic era may have, according to scientists, may have been affected by high oxygen levels into growing into larger and monstrous sizes. There are, in existence, around five thousand different species of dragonflies that belong to the Odonata categorization meaning ‘toothed ones’, referring to their serrated teeth. While dragonflies only live a short while as adults, they can actually live in their larvae underwater for up to two years. Some species prefer flowing waters, while others prefer standing water. Many dragonflies, particularly males, are territorial. Some defend a territory against others of their own species, some against other species of dragonfly, and a few against insects in unrelated groups.
Nearly all of the dragonfly’s head is comprised of eyes, so they have an incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them. Scientists have tracked migratory dragonflies by attaching tiny transmitters to wings with a combination of eyelash adhesive and superglue. They found that green darners from New Jersey traveled only every third day and an average of 7.5 miles per day. But because dragonflies are ancient insects, the wing muscles are connected directly to the wings. This gives a much slower wing beat – thirty to forty beats per second (midges beat at 1,000 beats per sec).
And so with so long spent in the making and so little time spent actually living, I wonder still what they get done. Perhaps they do not have the same sense of accomplishment and purpose as us and maybe that is why they are so happy to beat and flit through life. But that isn’t the same for people, for us humans who know what purpose and accomplishment are. I am grateful for the length of the life I have.