An adult dragonfly may live for several months after leaving its water-born nymph phase. However, if accounting for the entirety of the insect's life cycle from hatching until death, the life of a dragonfly could span several years.
A dragonfly nymph lives underwater and hunts other invertebrates for anywhere from six months to four years. During this time, the nymph molts or sheds its skin up to 15 times, depending on the species. Once the nymph has completed its growth process, it swims to the surface and anchors itself to a stem or root before undergoing metamorphosis. Dragonflies are different from other insects, like moths and butterflies, in that they do not require a cocoon or pupa in order to change from a larvae into an adult.
Once the winged adult dragonfly has emerged, it needs to sit and wait for its wings to dry. This phase of the life cycle is known as a "teneral," which is Latin for "tender, soft or delicate." After a few hours, the adult dragonfly will take to the air where it will prey on other winged insects. The temperature and weather greatly affect how long the dragonfly lives at this stage in its life. If the weather is warm and the dragonfly is able to avoid predators it can live up to six months. However, if the temperature is cold then adults may only live a few weeks.