When resting, the southern hawker nymph's lower lip is folded under its jaw.
When hunting, the nymph shoots its lower lip forward to reach prey.
As a nymph, the southern hawker has a special way of catching prey. It is able to fold its lip beneath its head when not hunting. When it sees prey, the lip shoots forward. Then it stabs the prey with sharp spines.
The lip can move in less than
25 milliseconds. Once the prey is impaled, the nymph pulls its lower lip back toward its jaws. The jaws are strong and tough and lined with teeth. They cut the prey into pieces.
As the nymph eats, it grows. And as it grows, it molts. A nymph may molt as many as eight times. The period of growth between each molt is called an instar. Life as a nymph is long. It can be as long as several years.
A nymph shoots out its lower lip to catch prey.
Once caught, the prey is quickly eaten by the nymph.
A Final Change
In the final stages of metamorphosis, the southern hawker’s lower lip contracts. It can no longer hunt and eat. It needs to molt one last time. It waits until night before leaving the water. It climbs up the stem of a water plant.
The insect pumps fluids into its body. It starts to swell. The exoskeleton splits. It thrusts its body through this gap. Its head and legs follow. Then it slowly pumps fluids into the hollow veins of its new wings to expand them.
From Larva to Adult
Take a closer look at the journey of a dragonfly:
The larva leaves its egg and enters the water as a nymph.
As the nymph grows, it molts. It forms a new exoskeleton. It will molt several times.
The nymph leaves the water as its exoskeleton splits one last time.
The dragonfly climbs out of its exoskeleton. It waits for its new skin to harden.
Ready for Flight
The adult dragonfly unfurls its wings in the sunlight. Then it takes its first flight.