Life Cycle of a Dragonfly: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Dragonflies
  • 0:26 Life Cycle
  • 1:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Jon Hadley

Mary Jon has taught in an elementary school for nine years, and am currently working on my doctorate in curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Did you know that dragonfly fossils have been found with wings up to two feet across? Today, dragonflies usually only have a wingspan of up to five inches. Learn about the life cycle of present-day dragonflies.


There are over 5,000 types of beautiful, brightly colored dragonflies in the world. No matter what color they are, all dragonflies are amazing fliers. The unique wing movements of dragonflies allow them to hover, fly forward or backward and turn sharply at high or low speeds. Dragonflies depend on their flying abilities to catch food mid-air and to escape predators.

Life Cycle

Would you believe that such wonderful fliers begin their lives in the water? Dragonflies go through incomplete metamorphosis, or a transformation that has three stages: egg, nymph (or larva) and adult.

First, the female adult dragonfly lays its eggs near the calm waters of a pond, a swamp or the backwater of a river. The eggs may be laid on a plant, in the mud, or on the water itself.

Next, the nymph crawls out of the egg and begins its journey in the water. The nymph stage can take up to four years to complete, a very long time for an insect. Nymphs eat mosquitoes, very small fish or other insects - even other nymphs! Dragonfly nymphs have gills beneath the back part of their bodies which allow them to breathe and move through water. The nymph draws water into its gills to get oxygen. When it expels the water and air, the action pushes the nymph through the water. Nymphs grow and molt, or shed their skin, about a dozen times during this stage. Once this stage nears completion, the nymph will crawl out of the water onto a plant or rock.

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