The Amazing Transformation of a Dragonfly

I had no idea this happened!

If you spend any time near water in the summer, on a lake or river, you have probably seen a beautiful dragonfly and maybe even had one land on you.

Have you ever wondered where they come from? Like, how do dragonflies come to be?

I never thought about it until our vacation this summer when something very unexpected happened.

We were on the Ottawa River for a week. In the water we kept seeing a strange, large grey bug, swimming around very quickly. To me, it looked like something prehistoric. It seemed to be keen on getting out of the water. When I put my hand in the water to pick up a stone, the bug zoomed over and grabbed on to my arm without me noticing. My daughter saw and said “Mummy, it’s on your arm!” and I yelled as I brushed it off.

Later, we had friends over and one of these bugs got climbed on my friends hat as we waded in the water. It happened twice so the second time we put the bug in a cup and tried to figure out what it was. A neighbour said it must be a crayfish but it didn’t look right – no claws plus it had weird like things on its back like malformed wings. We meant to take the photos and post them to twitter but we forgot about it. A couple hours later, we looked in the cup to find… a dragonfly!! Amazing!


The next day, we saw another of these grey bugs trying to get out of the water so we caught it in a big bucket put it on some leaves then left it be. It didn’t do anything right away so we went back into the water. About 20 minutes later, we checked again and it had already started to transform!

I didn’t have anything with me to capture it but, by the time it had completely emerged, I asked my daughter to run back to the cottage to get my phone and I took these photos.

You can see the shell of its nymph self, or larval skin, that strange grey bug from the water.

The tiny malformed looking wings on the nymph were indeed where the true wings were neatly folded, waiting to emerge. We were able to watch the wings unfold and stretch out. It was really cool!


Learn more about dragonfly life cycle HERE where you can learn, “During its time as a larva, the dragonfly catches and eats live prey at every opportunity, moulting a further 5–14 times until it is fully-grown. Larval development typically takes one or two years

While writing this, I began to wonder if this was a dragonfly or a damselfly. THIS post made me think, because of the eyes, it is actually a damsel fly. But then, THIS post by the same author about the nyphms made me sure it’s a dragonfly. I didn’t see any wiggly gills on the nymph.