Dragonfly images including Dragonflies In-Flight.... Despite their name, dragonflies are not related to common flies. In fact, they are part of an entirely different order of insects. Dragonflies are part of the Odonata order, which also includes damselflies. Worldwide, the Odonata order of insects (dragonflies and damselflies) includes more than 5,000 individual species. They exist in many countries around the world. Within the United States, there are about 400 species of Odonata. You often see dragonflies near bodies of water (ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams) because they lay their eggs on or near the water. Dragonfly young (nymphs) have a special appendage on their head that they use as a spear to catch small fish. They are predatory insects from birth. Dragonflies are not born with wings. They are born in a larvae state and eventually go through a partial metamorphosis process, during which they grow their wings. Dragonflies spend most of their lives in the larva stage (up to three years, depending on the species). The adult, winged stage only lasts a few weeks. Mating is the primary reason for their winged stage. So when you see a winged dragonfly, you know it's toward the end of its lifespan. Sad but true. Male dragonflies can be very territorial, staking claim to a particular area alongside a pond or stream. When you see two adults chasing each other through the air, it is often one male chasing another from its territory. When you see two dragonflies flying through the air attached to one another, it is almost always a male and female mating. Dragonflies will sometimes travel in swarms, which may be related to weather changes such as the passage of cold fronts. Dragonflies prey on other creatures through their entire life cycle. As larva in bodies of water, they prey on other small creatures (mosquito larva, tiny fish, etc.). As adults, they eat other flying insects. Dragonflies can be useful in controlling mosquito populations. Mosquitoes are one of their primary food sources! Dragonflies are ancient insects. They have existed on Planet Earth for approximately 300 million years. Today, they look very much like they did in "dinosaur times," though they have gradually gotten smaller since then. The largest dragonfly fossil (one of the earliest) had a wingspan of nearly three feet. That makes it the largest flying insect in known history. Dragonflies have two pairs of wings. The wings are mostly transparent and move very fast, so it often appears that they have more than two pairs. The front wings of the dragonfly are slightly longer than the rear wings. This helps with both speed and maneuverability. Though many people fear them, dragonflies cause no harm to humans whatsoever. They are often curious toward humans and will fly around you for that reason, but they do not sting or bite. Though dragonflies are essentially harmless to humans, there were many spooky legends about them in the past (some of which still remain). For example, people used to believe that sleeping outside put you at risk of having your eyes sewn shut by the dragonfly or "darning needle." One of the most distinguishing features of dragonflies are their eyes. They have large, compound eyes with many facets or sides. Because of their large, multifaceted eyes, the adult dragonfly can see nearly 360 degrees around it at all times. Though you can't see them all with the naked eye, the compound eyes of the dragonfly can contain thousands of tiny lenses. As far as insects go, dragonflies are among the fastest. Some of the faster species can fly upward of 30 miles per hour. Their four wings also allow them to move sideways, backward, to hover in place, etc. And they can do all of these movements quickly and accurately, which makes them well suited to eat other insects right out of the air.