Here be dragons

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Winged Wonders -

This stun­ning pic­ture of a blue, brown and black drag­on­fly was sent into the Ken­tish Ex­press by reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor Ted Prangnell.

Mr Prangnell spot­ted the in­sect hov­er­ing around the runner beans he is grow­ing in his Ken­ning­ton gar­den last week.

Af­ter see­ing the very im­pres­sive shot, we thought we would share with you some in­ter­est­ing facts about drag­on­flies, which are a pop­u­lar sight at this time of year.

About 5,900 dif­fer­ent species of drag­on­flies are known in the world to­day. They be­long to the or­der of Odo­nata, which means ‘toothed one’ in Greek and refers to the drag­on­fly’s ser­rated teeth.

They eat mosquitoes – a sin­gle drag­on­fly can eat hun­dreds each day – and other small in­sects, such as flies, bees, ants, wasps and, very rarely, but­ter­flies.

They are usu­ally found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wet­lands be­cause their lar­vae, known as ‘nymphs’, are aquatic.

At the end of the lar­val stage, the drag­on­fly crawls out of the wa­ter, then its ex­oskele­ton cracks open and re­leases the in­sect’s ab­domen, which had been packed in like a tele­scope. Its four wings come out, and they dry and har­den over the next sev­eral hours or days.

Some adult drag­on­flies live for only a few weeks, while oth­ers live for up to a year.

Mod­ern drag­on­flies have wing­spans of two to five inches, but pre­his­toric ones had wing­spans of up to two feet.

Drag­on­flies can fly straight up and down, hover like a he­li­copter and even mate midair.

Pic­tures: Ted Prangnell/Dave Downey

Ted Prangnell spot­ted this drag­on­fly on his runner beans

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