Dragonflies are an ancient species that have roamed our planet for more than 300 million years. They are found throughout the world (except Antarctica) near wetlands and bodies of water which provide their breeding grounds. Dragonflies are economically important consumers of mosquitoes and other flying insect pests as well as occasional troublesome hunters of honey bees.1
Dragonflies and their close relatives damselflies are members of the family Odonata from the Greek word for "teeth", whether this reflects an ancient belief that they had teeth or is merely an observation of the strength of their mandibles, I can't say.
Life and Times of the Dragonfly
Dragonflies begin their lives as eggs on some freshwater aquatic plant. The eggs hatch after some time and a nymph emerges. A dragonfly nymph is a small aquatic creature that lives in still waters feeding off of other insects. This is the longest part of a dragonfly's life and it can remain in this stage for up to four years.
Dragonfly nymphs are able to shoot water through their anal cavity giving them a boost of speed that can easily overtake most aquatic critters. They can even crawl up out of the water to snatch prey if they feel inclinded. Dragonfly nymphs eat worms, tadpoles, and other aquatic insects including mosquito larvae and even small fish.
When the nymph is ready to mature, it will climb out of the water onto a plant, shed its skin and emerge as a dragonfly. Dragonflies only live for about two months and spend that time hunting and eating smaller insects, and seeking mates. Adult dragonflies can eat their weight in insect prey in a half hour. This prey includes many small insects, including mosquitoes and gnats and sometimes even moths and bees. Watching dragonflies patrolling their territory is a fascinating way to while away a summer afternoon. Once they've spotted their prey, they quickly snatch them out of the air, besting most other insects in both speed and maneuverability. When large groups of insects, like ants or termites, are spotted, dragon flies will even hunt in groups. This can be a problem for bee-keepers.
Dragonflies mate in the air and then the female goes off to find a still body of water in which to lay her eggs.
Dragonfly in History and Folklore
Dragonflies symbolize renewal and transformation, i.e. brought about by a maturing experience via deep exploration of the Self, the collective unconscious and the mysteries.
Dragonflies can also symbolize a newfound freedom, but warns us that it is fleeting and urges us to be fully present and cherish every moment of it.
Dragonflies in Your Dreams
Seeing a dragonfly in a dream, or while specifically seeking out a spirit message, speaks of transformative change. It is either coming, you're in the middle of it right now, or you're emerging from it. It could be something catastrophic, or, more likely, just the natural progression to the next phase of your life. (Which can also be scary)
As a symbol of a situation in your life, a dragonfly can represent hidden aspects of it. It is letting you know that there is much more going on than appears on the surface.
If you eat the dragonfly it means you are unable to conceal or control your emotions.
Dragonflies as Spirit Animals
The spirit of the dragonfly is that of change and adaptability. The dragonfly moves with ease between elements and, as such, is an excellent spirit ally and guide for traveling between realms. He helps dispel illusions and urges deep exploration of your own emotions and motivations.
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