Is it true that dragonflies can fly up to 60 mph?

Insects represent the most diverse animal group on the planet. They comprise 1,000,000 species described and an estimated 5,000,000 extant species. There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies, all of which belong to the order Odonata, a Greek word which means “toothed one” since dragonflies have serrated teeth. These insects may seem small in size but they contribute to the ecological balance as core biological foundation of all terrestrial ecosystems. They also serve as pollinators, seed dispersers, predators, detritivores, and vectors. 

Let us take a look at the world of one of the most amazing insects – Dragonflies. 

There are a lot of myths and fables around these tiny insects. Some even believe that they are descendants of dragons. Dragonflies have existed for about 300 million years.

Dragonflies come in various colors including blue, green, yellow, and red. They also come in different sizes such as some are half an inch long and others to over 5 inches long but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet.

Dragonflies have long bodies, four strong transparent wings, a long body, and large compound eyes which is their main sense organ. They have 6 legs, a thorax, a head, and an abdomen. Despite having 6 legs, they cannot walk well, but it can fly and hover in one place extremely fast, and even backward.

The wings of dragonflies can function together or individually. It enables the dragonfly to fly in six directions and in four different styles. Some species can fly for a long time continuously. However, they can fly only for a few weeks at the most as their lifetime is very short.

Dragonflies Flight

The adult dragonflies can move in 6 directions; upward, downward, forward, back, and side to side. Flying midair is also not a problem as they can also easily soar there. Their take-off speed can reach up to 35mph or equal to 56km/h. 

The ability of the four wings to independently function gives them really exceptional flying capabilities. They can bend and twist their wings to cause little whirlwinds that move the air even faster over the upper part of the airfoil, reducing air pressure even more than most flying animals can even in the face of powerful winds.

The flight style of different families of dragonflies is one of their unique features. They have categorized in a few various terms based on their flight skills and abilities. 


Hawkers are among the fastest-flying group from the family Aeshnidae. They have large and powerful wings extended horizontally, which can fly forwards or backward or hover like a helicopter. The adults live mostly in the air and can even mate during their flight. 


Skimmers or perchers comprise the very large family Libellulidae. There are various flight styles among its genera. The genus Sympetrum that lives in the northern hemisphere has 50 species. Its breeding grounds are ponds, and searches over meadows. There are at least 100 other genera.

The Globe Skimmer species migrate across the Indian Ocean for a distance of about 11,000 miles. The larger species of dragonflies are faster than the smaller ones.


Cruisers come from the family Macromiidae. They usually enjoy flying over bodies of water straight down the middle. Their eyes are green that just barely meet at the top of the head. Female cruisers from this family lack an ovipositor and just lay their eggs by dipping their abdomen in the water as they fly over.

Surprisingly, there are several reports that dragonflies can reach up to 60 mph in flight. It was reported in the article The Biology of Dragonflies in 1917, by Robert John Tillyard a famous entomologist. He observed that a fly of the species Austrophlebia costalis reached a speed of 98 kph along with a downward flight. However, there are no other reliable sources available to support this claim. Still, the speed of 35 mph makes dragonflies among the fastest insects.

What special about dragonflies’ big eyes?

The first thing that you will notice about dragonflies is their big spherical eyes. It has nearly 30, 000 facets in each other and has a field of vision of almost 360°. This exceptional eye ability also makes the dragonflies catch their prey easily.  They are among the best predators in the animal kingdom. According to scientific studies, they catch 95% of the prey they target, making them more successful than lions and sharks.

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