Belonging to the order of the Odonata, dragonflies are hemimetabolous insects which in the first phase of development (naiads and nymphs) live in water, to then become terrestrial animals upon development and sexual maturation. Although they never leave ponds, water puddles, lakes (natural or artificial) and calm water courses for long periods, these animals are skilled flying predators that mainly feed on other insects that they capture in flight with their powerful legs.


They are also equipped with a particular anatomical apparatus called “mask” that has naturally developed to facilitate the capture of their prey. As a rule, this remains folded under the body and is launched forward to grasp the enemies and to bring them to their mouths. Some species are also territorial, with the males that delimit their own hunting territories and keep out all the intruders.
Elegant and curious, dragonflies have developed a flight technique that allows them to stay in the air even for many consecutive hours, so much so that some species undertake long migratory journeys.
Normally these animals fly at a speed of 1-4 m per second, but in some brief stretches, may even reach 50 km/h. This great capacity to effect sudden changes in direction and reach elevated speeds gave rise to many legends, some of which were believed by cultures and peoples that lived far from one another. In the west, the artistic iconography often associated the dragonfly to principles of divine revelation and change (life-death-resurrection), besides that of the overcoming of appearance and illusions. Among the many quaint features of the work called the “Holy Family with the dragonfly” was that its name derived from the close-up portrayal of this insect at the extreme right of the composition. However, some critiques do not see a dragonfly in this engraving, but a butterfly, with the consequential variation of the iconographic and iconological significance of Durer’s work.