Ian, our Development Manager, has managed to record some brilliant footage of an Emperor dragonfly’s emergence as it transforms from a nymph to its adult form.
The process of emergence usually takes around 3 hours. Dragonflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis, meaning they don’t go through a pupal stage (unlike other winged insects such as butterflies), instead transforming from larvae straight to adults.
Before the emergence, the nymphs sit in shallow water, preparing themselves for the final moult to adulthood. When they are ready, they climb up the stalks of vegetation, out of the water.
During the moulting process, they push their thorax, head, legs and wings out of the larval skin. This takes time – each part of the dragonfly that emerges must harden before the next part can emerge. The wings are limp and shriveled at first, but are expanded by the passage of haemolymph (insects’ equivalent of blood) through the wing veins, taking on their characteristic appearance.
Once the dragonfly has emerged, it is at its weakest and is vulnerable to bird predators. Its first flight, if it manages it, is called the maiden flight.
Watch the video below to see this process in action and discover the fate of this rather unfortunate dragonfly!