In my mind, no insect denotes ‘summer’ more than our friend, the dragonfly, who patrols his territory and catches smaller insects for dinner over your favorite swimming hole at the height of the season.

The darner family of dragonflies is among the largest, often attaining a hefty 5-inch wingspan.

While the adults are relatively long-lived, enduring a full summer’s heat, it is the nymph that wins the prize for longevity. You see, the dragonfly starts life out underwater in the river or pond and grows slowly over the course of 2-4 years on the abundant prey in its watery home.

In my work as an environmental educator, I love to tell kids about the funniest thing a dragonfly nymph does: it breathes with its butt! For the dragonfly has its gills in its anus and pulls water in to extract oxygen, then it does an even funnier thing and shoots the water back out with force, like jet propulsion, which propels the creature forward with lightning speed. Ah, nature!

If you are really lucky, as I was a few years back, you might observe the mature nymph as it bravely abandons its aquatic life and climbs out on a stem to begin its seemingly magical transformation from lumbering aquatic bug to a strong and graceful winged beauty.

The exoskeleton of the nymph splits lengthwise along its back and the adult crawls out and perches on top of its old skin – the shuck- while its wings slowly expand and strengthen.

The adults will live for several months, then mate and lay their eggs in the water, completing a most fascinating life cycle.

Watch the Replay of my Live Workshop

Download the Dragonfly Sketching Cheat Sheet to follow along to the drawing tutorial below.


Learn more about Dragonflies

The Secret World of Dragonflies

Dragonfly Websites

Minnesota Dragonfly Society

Mother News Network