Yesterday I photographed this red skimmer dragonfly in Sycamore Canyon. Dragonflies and the closely related damselflies are highly beneficial predatory insects. They are responsible for eliminating large numbers of mosquitoes, as well as other pesky insects. Dragonflies such as the red skimmer are very specialized hunters. They have large compound eyes for spotting their prey, and sharp mouthparts for cutting up insect prey. Dragonflies are skilled at maneuvering through the air, as a result of their four powerful wings that move independently. This allows dragonflies to move both forward and backward. Their legs are not suitable for walking, but instead are used to hold their insect prey that is captured during flight.
Dragonflies and damselflies are strongly tied to aquatic environments. Their larval stage (referred to as naiads) develop in the water. The naiads themselves are aquatic predators, capturing things that include insects, tadpoles, worms, and small fish. Worldwide there are 5,000 known species of dragonflies and damselflies, with approximately 450 occurring in North America.