The dragonfly begins its life as an aquatic larva also called a nymph. Dragonflies live in ponds and calm areas of rivers and streams. While in this larval form, the dragonfly is a predator, feasting on mosquito larvae, aquatic insects, small fish and worms. As the nymph grows and develops it molts by shedding its outer skin called an exuvia. Some species go through as many as 17 molts while in this stage, which can take up to 3 years.
Dragonflies do not go through a pupal stage like other winged insects such as butterflies. Instead, they make their transition to the adult form with a final molt. Once the nymphs are fully grown and the conditions are right, the larva crawls up on the stem of a plant and sheds its “skin” one last time.
This molt takes about three hours, and the newly emerged adult dragonfly (known as a teneral) takes to the air with its new wings. It leaves behind its discarded shell which you may find still clinging to a stem long after the dragonfly has flown off.
Like the larval form, the adult dragonfly is a predator. It likes to eat mayflies, gnats, mosquitoes and other small flying insects. The dragonfly is a voracious eater. It can consume its weight in food in about 30 minutes.