Life Cycle of a Dragonfly: Lesson for Kids

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.

Amazing Fliers

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 fantastic flying ability to catch food mid-air and to escape predators.

Adult dragonfly with black and white wings
Picture of a dragonfly with black and white wings

Life Cycle

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

First, a female adult dragonfly lays its eggs near the calm waters of a pond, swamp or backwater of a river. The eggs may be laid on a plant, but they may also be laid 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 underneath the back part of their bodies which allow them to breathe in the water and move through it. The nymph pulls water into the gills to get oxygen, and when it lets the water and air out, it 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, a nymph will crawl out of the water onto a plant or rock.

Young nymph and older nymph
A picture of a younger and older version of a dragonfly nymph

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