Why are they called Dragonflies?
The name comes from their fierce jaws, which they use to catch flies (among other winged insects). Where do dragonflies come from? The dragonfly begins its life as an egg. Adult female dragonflies lay their eggs in water. After about two weeks, the eggs hatch and an immature dragonfly, or nymph, emerges. The nymphs are not pretty like the adults. They have tiny wings and a large lower lip, which they use to catch their prey (often mosquito larvae). Dragonfly nymphs live in the water. As they grow, they molt (shed their skin). Nymphs of some species may take as long as three years to mature. When the dragonfly nymph reaches maturity, it crawls out of the water onto a plant stem. Then its skin begins to split. First the head, then the thorax, then the legs, and then the wings of an adult dragonfly emerge. Soon the newly emerged dragonfly is able to fly. The process takes about two hours. It takes about two days before the adult dragonfly’s beautiful colors are fully developed.
Possibly the earliest reference to the name is from Francis Bacon’s “Sylva Sylvarum: or a Naturall Historie in Ten Centuries.” (a curious hotch-potch of experiments, observations, speculations, ancient teachings, and analytical discussions on topics ranging from the causes of hiccups to explanations for the shortage of rain in Egypt). It was artificially divided into ten chapters, each consisting of one hundred items and was published in 1626, where he first used common name “Dragon-fly”. At a guess, Bacon had picked up on a common, folklore name in use at the time. Prior to this date (and since) many different vernacular names have been used. Some are: Adder Bolt, Snake Doctor, Devil’s Riding Horse, Horse Stinger and Devil’s Darning Needle. There is an excellent paperback called “Spinning Jenny and Devil’s Darning Needle” by M. Jill Lucas which has a great deal about dragonfly folklore.