By Cushla MacGaughey
Dragonflies have existed for more than 250 million years and were once much larger. Even so, our largest dragonfly has a wingspan reaching up to 13 cm.
Despite their somewhat fearsome appearance, Giant Dragonflies are harmless – except to other insects – and are themselves eaten by kingfishers.
True flies have only two wings. Dragonflies have four, which they can operate independently. They can hover, rise vertically, fly backwards or shoot forwards. Large compound eyes and a head that rotates sideways, backwards and downwards are additional aids in catching insects on the wing.
Giant Dragonflies are slower in flight than smaller species, which can cruise at 40 km/h and accelerate up to 58 km/h. The Maori name means ‘water snatcher’.
It refers to the nymph stage, where larvae lie in wait to seize insects from the surface of the water or mud.