New Zealand's dragonflies & damselflies
Latin Name Common Name
Xanthocnemis zealandica - common redcoat damselfly
Xanthocnemis sobrina - kauri redcoat damselfly
Xanthocnemis tuanuii - Chatham redcoat damselfly
Xanthocnemis sinclairi - alpine redcoat damselfly
Ischnura aurora aurora - gossamer dragonfly
Austrolestes colensonis - blue damselfly
Uropetala carovei - giant bush dragonfly
Uropetala chiltoni - mountain giant dragonfly
Aeshna brevistyla - lancer dragonfly
Hemianax papuensis - baron dragonfly
Antipodochlora braueri - dusk dragonfly
Procordulia grayi - yellow spotted dragonfly
Procordulia smithii - ranger dragonfly
Hemicordulia australiae - sentry dragonfly
Diplacodes bipunctata novaezealandiae
- red percher dragonfly
Pantala flavescens - orange glider dragonfly
Tramea transmarine - red glider dragonfly
Where do they live?
Dragonflies and damselflies live near water, usually by stagnant ponds, marshes, slow-moving rivers or streams. They can be seen flying around mostly during the late spring and summer months.
How are damesflies and dragonflies different?
The dragonfly is larger than the damselfly. The dragonfly's wings span ranges from 50-100 mm. The back pair of wings are slightly broader than the front. When resting, the dragonfly keeps its wings outspread at right angles to its body. The wings of the damselfly are all the same size and, unlike the dragonfly, it rests with them raised above its body.
Photo courtesy of Jon Sullivan
What enemies do Dragonflies have?
Dragonflies do have enemies. Among the species that catch and eat adult dragonflies and damselflies are kingfishers, wasps and rats. In the larval stage, which is spent underwater, they are preyed on by fish, frogs, toads and other water invertebrates. Dragonflies and damselflies use their excellent eyesight and flying skills which can help them to evade capture.
The dragonfly has two enormous compound eyes which is are made of about 30,000 facets or individual lenses for each eye. With its eyes so sensitive to movement, the dragonfly can spot and catch small insects, like mosquitoes, in full flight.
Dragonflies (Odonata) are among the oldest insects on earth. Fossilised remains showing that they existed 300 million year ago. There are more than 4500 different species in the world today, varying in size and colour but all members of the same dragonfly family.
Text courtesy of Nature’s Way Dragonflies – by Oxford Scientific Films
Did you know?
Dragonflies are found throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
Dragonflies have three pairs of legs, attached to the body just behind its head. These are used for seizing their prey in mid-air, and holding onto it while the jaws get to work. The legs are also used for clinging to plants and other objects. Dragonflies can not walk.
The giant bush dragonfly is New Zealand’s largest dragonfly, with a body length of about 80-85 mm and a wingspan reaching 140 mm or more. This enables them to move through the air at very quick speeds making an easy to hear rustling noise. All dragonflies have an exoskeleton.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.naturenorth.com/dragonfly/DOM/Page02_Life_Cycle.html
How long does a dragonfly live for?
The life cycle of a dragonfly is of an egg (usually laid under water), larva (free moving, water dwelling nymph) and adult. The larva lives for several weeks (or years depending on species) underwater and undergoes a series of moults as it grows. It emerges from the water when it is ready to undergo its final moult where the "skin" splits to release the winged adult; much as a butterfly or moth emerges from its pupa. Some dragonfly species live for no more than six months whereas other species may live for many years.
What and how do dragonflies eat?
The larvae, which live in water, eat almost anything living that is smaller than themselves. The larger dragonfly larvae are known to catch and eat small fish or fry and tadpoles. Usually they eat bloodworms or other aquatic insect larvae.
Adult dragonflies eat other flying insects, like midges, cicadas, flies and mosquitoes. They also will eat butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies. One type of Asian dragonfly thinks nothing of capturing spiders from their webs!
How fast can they fly?
You may hear the hovering dragonfly before you see it. Some dragonfly species can move through the air very fast, with some species reaching over 90 kmph. They can fly for hours on end. More often, though, they patrol a particular stretch of water looking for insects to eat, or select a perch from which they can dart out to catch their prey. The more delicate damsel fly is not a strong flier or as fast, and rarely moves far from its breeding place near water.