Dragonflies (infraorder Anisoptera)
A dragonfly is a type of insect belonging to the order Odonata, suborder Epiprocta, infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest.
Dragonflies typically eat mosquitoes and other small insects like flies, bees and butterflies. They are therefore valued as predators, since they help control populations of insects. Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. Adult dragonflies do not bite or sting humans, though nymphs are capable of delivering a painful (though otherwise harmless) bite.
Dragonflies are capable of hovering followed by rapid acceleration. They capture their prey by clasping them in legs studded with spikes. Prey cannot escape by diving away because dragonflies always attack from below.
Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often on floating or emergent plants. The larval stage of large dragonflies may last as long as five years. The adult stage of larger species of dragonfly can last as long as four months.
In Japan dragonflies are symbols of courage, strength, and happiness, and they often appear in art and literature, especially haiku. In ancient mythology, Japan was known as Akitsushima, which means "Land of the Dragonflies". Japanese children catch large dragonflies as a game, using a hair with a small pebble tied to each end, which they throw into the air. The dragonfly mistakes the pebbles for prey, gets tangled in the hair, and is dragged to the ground by the weight.
In the United States dragonflies and damselflies are sought out as a hobby similar to birding and butterflying, known as oding. Oding, from the dragonfly's Latin species name, odonata. Oding is especially popular in Texas, where 225 out of a total of 457 known species of odonates in the world have been observed.
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