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Dragonfly Lifespan: How Long Do Dragonflies Live?

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One of the first winged insects to evolve, dragonflies have lived on Earth for nearly 300 million years. We can instantly recognize these bugs by their beautiful appearance and incredibly fast-moving wings. Their appearance is so distinctive that it is usually impossible to confuse them with any other insect.

Dragonflies are found on every continent except Antarctica, so most of us have probably seen one while outside. As an interesting ancient insect with more than 5,000 different species, it makes sense to wonder how long they live and how they compare to other insects. Let's take a look at the lifespan of dragonflies and discover what makes these arthropods so fascinating!

How Long Do Dragonflies Live?

animal with the shortest lifespan
Dragonflies spend most of their lives as nymphs.


Dragonflies live anywhere from one to eight weeks. However, you might be surprised to learn that some dragonflies survive underwater as nymphs ten times longer than adults!

As adults, dragonflies have a life expectancy of only a week. However, lifespan can be extended. In cold weather, they become shorter, but dragonflies can live for more than a few months, up to six months, if the weather is warm and there are no extreme weather (heavy rainstorms and high winds).

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Dragonflies take much longer to develop than adults. Nymphs usually spend a year or more before emerging. However, the larval period of some dragonfly species (such as the aurea) can last up to 5 years. That's 10 times longer than the life expectancy of the oldest adult dragonfly!

Several factors affect the life expectancy of a dragonfly. For example, according to Richard Askew's The Dragonflies of Europe, " mortality in sexually mature dragonflies appears to be largely independent of their age ." Dragonflies are often victims of large predators, as well as when in conflict with other adults Suffered wing damage. This is why dragonflies almost never die of old age.

Average Life Cycle of a Dragonfly

The life cycle of a dragonfly is divided into three stages. These include eggs, larvae (also known as nymphs), and adults.


A female dragonfly can lay hundreds of eggs in her lifetime. Females typically lay eggs in batches over weeks or months. Eggs are laid in plant material or loosely deposited in water. Endophytes are terrestrial eggs and are elongated in shape while exophytes are round and found in water.

Within 2-5 weeks of laying eggs, they will begin to hatch. However, some species, such as emerald damselflies, and even some hawkers, won't hatch until next spring.

nymph or larva

underwater dragonfly larva
Dragonfly nymphs may eat other dragonfly nymphs to survive.

©Vitalii Hulai/Shutterstock.com

Once the dragonfly eggs hatch, the dragonfly larval (or nymph) stage begins. This is the beginning of the longest phase of the dragonfly's life cycle, as they spend the most time in the nymph stage. Dragonfly nymphs develop into dragonflies in water, a process that can take anywhere from a few weeks to five years.

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During this stage, dragonfly nymphs hunt as much live prey as possible, including insect larvae, worms, snails, leeches, tadpoles, and small fish. They will also molt as often as needed. Sometimes as many as 14 times to reach their full size and gain their wings.

Juvenile Dragonfly & Adult

Once the dragonflies are at their largest size and the weather is in their favor, they begin the final step, eclosion. This transformation involves climbing out of the water and up the stems of plants. They will then begin to undergo a final molt and leave their skin behind, known as molting. Once this process is complete, they become juvenile dragonflies. They then start to forage for food in preparation for maturity. As the dragonfly starts looking for a mate, the whole life cycle starts all over again.

How does the lifespan of dragonflies compare to that of other arthropods?

As such a beautiful and extremely fast-flying insect, it's hard to believe that a dragonfly's lifespan is as short as that of a flying adult!

Dragonflies are classified as arthropods. Arthropods are the largest phylum classification in the kingdom Animalia. The phylum Arthropoda includes lobsters, crabs, spiders, insects, centipedes, and millipedes. Animals are classified as arthropods if they have an exoskeleton, segmented body, and pairs of articulated legs.

Nymphs live up to five years and adults up to six months, a relatively average lifespan for dragonflies compared to many other insects. As adults, many insects live only a year. However, some people have overcome these difficulties.

Dragonfly outdoors on a wet morning
Dragonflies come in many colors.

© aaltair/Shutterstock.com

For example, cicadas live 17 years, while ant queens have been found to live 30 years.

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Surprisingly, though, they don't have the shortest lifespans. Compared with mosquitoes, which can only live for a few weeks, and houseflies, which can only live for up to 28 days, the lifespan of dragonflies is not so short.

Fun Facts About Dragonflies And Their Life Cycle

  • Since they spend most of their lives in an aquatic environment, dragonflies are able to breathe through gills in their rectum. They are also able to propel themselves through water by expelling water through their anus.
  • Dragonflies are carnivores, and believe it or not, they have about a 95 percent success rate in hunting. They are equipped with sharp mandibles that they use to tear apart their prey. Thanks to this sharp jaw, the little dragonfly is able to eat mosquito larvae, worms, tadpoles, and even small fish.
  • There are approximately 5,000 species of dragonflies worldwide, excluding Antarctica. There are about 450 species of dragonflies in the United States and about 80 in British Columbia. Most dragonflies live in remote tropical climates.


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More from AZ Animals

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Dragonflies come in a variety of vibrant colors that sparkle as they fly.

© iStock.com/H_Yasui

about the author


Volia Nikaci is a freelance writer and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding and marketing. She has a background in broadcast journalism and political science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, visiting used bookstores, and hanging out with her significant other.

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