Dragonflies live around freshwater and lay eggs in freshwater, usually on plants. Dragonfly larvae have gills and live underwater. When a larva is mature, it climbs out of the water and molts, following which an adult dragonfly emerges from the shed skin. Adult dragonflies live around water as well but are capable of flying long distances in search of food and mates.
Dragonflies have lived on the planet for millions of years, and the first fossil evidence of dragonflies dates back 325 million years. Dragonflies from this time period had a wingspan of approximately 30 inches, but they went extinct at the beginning of the Triassic period when the dinosaurs first appeared.
The primary prey of dragonflies are flies, but dragonflies can eat any food that is readily available, such as gnats, mosquitoes or termites. Since dragonflies are unable to hunt in cold weather, they are restricted to warmer climates. Although dragonflies are predators, they are preyed upon by fish, birds, spiders and other dragonflies. The largest species of dragonflies can fly up to 30 mph but have an average cruising speed of approximately 10 mph.
In Japanese culture, dragonflies are often viewed as symbols of courage and the return of summer. European cultures have traditionally associated dragonflies with evil or injury.