The older version has three body segments. Like all insects, it has a head, thorax, and abdomen. It has six legs. It has two pairs of wings. Its eyes are close together. They touch. And its body is brightly colored.

dragonfly­ nymph

The younger version also has three body segments. It has six legs, too. But its wings have not yet formed. Its eyes are far apart. And it's not as colorful.

This is the same animal. It is the southern hawker dragonfly. You are just seeing it at different points in its life.

Look at them side-by-side. They are different versions of the same thing!

Insect Body Parts




Changes Ahead

All insects experience a process of change. It is called metamorphosis. Most insects have what is known as a complete metamorphosis. Their bodies move through four stages. Egg. Larva. Pupa. Adult. Dragonflies have an incomplete metamorphosis. Their bodies only go through three stages. Egg. Nymph. Adult.

Southern hawkers are common in Europe. They live near small ponds. Each dragonfly begins life as an egg.

Males and females mate in late summer. The female lays her eggs inside water plants. This keeps them safe from predators.

A young dragonfly hatches in the spring. It has a sharp pointer on its head. It uses this to break its egg open. What comes out is called a prolarva. It frees itself from its covering. Then it enters the water and sheds its skin, or molts. It is now a nymph.

Nymphs must molt many times as they grow. That’s because their outer layer, or exoskeleton, cannot grow. When the insect gets too big, its skin splits open.

A southern hawker nymph's body is brown and green. These colors make the nymph harder to see in the water.

A southern hawker nymph moves underwater.

Deep breaths cause the split to widen. The southern hawker then shrugs out of the old skin. Now the dragonfly nymph is slightly larger.

Molting is helpful in another way. It allows damaged tissue to heal. Missing limbs can grow again. Yet, molting can be a dangerous time. It opens up the dragonfly to predators.

More Mobile

A dragonfly nymph can zip through the water. It moves by squirting water out of its back end. This propels it forward. The dragonfly needs to move quickly. It is always hunting.

The nymph’s body is brown and green. It blends in with pond or lake water. It’s hard for its predators or prey to see it. But the nymph can see them.

Its large eyes are always scanning for prey. The nymph needs to eat. It looks for insects, small tadpoles, and fish.

A southern hawker nymph's eyes are set far apart.