Dragonflies are a particular delight to see buzzing around Victoria’s lakes in the summer. Their colours are vibrant, and with four wings their flight is as mesmerising as it is versatile; dragonflies can fly straight up or down, hover in mid air, or change direction without turning their bodies. To add to these already impressive features, they don’t bite humans and they devour mosquitos. It’s pretty hard not to like dragonflies!
Few people know that dragonflies spend the majority of their lives underwater. They come out of lakes after a long metamorphosis (sometimes several years) and spend only a few months above the surface. While they are living underwater, dragonfly larvae eat anything smaller than themselves, including other insects, tadpoles, and even small fish. And yes, dragonfly larvae eat mosquito larvae too.
To some extent, the altitude of a lake affects what kinds of dragonflies you’ll find near it, as higher lakes generally have colder water, which is better for some species than others. Altitude, and the associated climate, also affects the type of vegetation that lines the shores of a lake. The warmer freshwater marshes of Victoria are ideal places to look for a bounty of dragonflies in the summer.
Dragonflies are thought to have been on earth for over 300 million years. Their ancestors, known as meganisoptera, are the largest known insects to rule our skies, with wingspans of up to 75 cm.