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Emperor Dragonfly Andy

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph  

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax Imporator)

Dragonfly Nymph

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph  

When I was a young boy I would go searching for dragonfly nymphs with friends using my dads landing net and often returning home with boots filled with water. Other dragonflies where always found but this species was our favourite we would keep the captured nymphs in fish tanks and it was fascinating watching them first stalking then catching worms and other insects offered.  The nymphs would live altogether if similar size except we had to separate the captured Broad-bodied dragonfly nymphs which are stubbier in shape into a separate tank because we found out the Emperor dragonflies would kill the Broad-bodied dragonfly nymphs as soon as they were spotted, even full-grown. I have often wondered if the Emperors think of the chaser nymphs and possibly other species as competitors rather than food and would probably behave the same way in the wild. When we could see the adult dragonfly developing inside the nymph we would place long sticks into the tank and place a netted cage over the top for the adult nymphs to climb so the dragonflies could emerge and dry there expanded wings. Later we would release the large dragonflies back into the wild, carrying them back to a local lake in shoe boxes so they did not fly and damage their wings. As I made the mistake as a kid to release my first large dragonfly from my front garden, what happened next was all the birds down the street chased it up and down the road seeing a large group of birds chasing a top gun of the insect world was something I have never forgotten.

The nymphs are a fearsome predator, feeding on small frogs, tadpoles, newts even fish. The nymphs which grow to a large size have an extendable labium which at rest is in a folding position underneath the head. In layman terms its just a folding arm which thrust forward very fast to capture and hold its prey, it is equipped with a sharp jaw with sharp bristles so its prey is secure while eating it.

No risk of being bitten by a nymph but I do remember they have four sharp prongs at the back of there abdomen which they can turn and dig into your hand, which they probably use as a defence against predators. A dragonfly nymph can take up to 3 years to develop shedding its skin up to 15 times.