In this series, we showcase the diversity of rare, peculiar, and fascinating native flora and fauna in Singapore. We enthusiastically invite you to explore our nature reserves and gardens, urging you to pause and observe your surroundings—whether by looking up or down—to see if you can catch a glimpse of these unique wonders.
Dragonflies play a crucial role in ecosystems––their roles as predators and indicator species contribute to environmental health.
Dragonflies are a predatory species that eat all types of small insects. They primarily feed on mosquitoes, gnats, and flies. They are extremely skilful as hunters and catch up to 95% of the prey they go after–– much higher than other predators. Their impressive success rate is attributable to their exceptional flying skills, spectacular eyesight and lightning-fast neural systems.
Dragonflies have two pair of wings that extend out horizontally at rest, much like an airplane. They can flap and beat their fore and hind wings independently and hover and fly in any direction, including backwards. They see much faster than we humans do. Each compound eye covers most of the dragonfly’s head, and allows it to see almost 360 degrees around it. Once dragonflies focus on a prey, they can predict its future location and swoop in on it with great accuracy.
Even as nymphs, baby dragonflies eat small aquatic creatures like mosquito larvae, worms, tadpoles, and even small fish!
With their voracious appetite, dragonflies help regulate the populations of insects that potentially carry diseases, reducing the need for chemical insecticides. A team of researchers from Nparks and the National University of Singapore are conducting a study on how to maximise the potential of dragonflies as natural pest control to combat dengue in Singapore.
Dragonflies play a vital role as indicator species. They are highly sensitive to changes in water quality and habitat conditions, and dragonfly larvae require clean, unpolluted water to thrive. By monitoring dragonfly populations in certain areas, scientists can assess the health of aquatic ecosystems. A decline in the population or a decrease in diversity may be a sign of pollution, habitat loss, or other environmental disturbances. On the other hand, a good population of dragonflies is an indication of a healthy ecosystem.
The presence, absence, or abundance of an indicator species reflects on a specific environmental condition. They can signal that something has changed or is going to change in the ecosystem and diagnose the health of an ecosystem.
Dragonflies also serve as an important food source for other animals including a wide range of birds, fish, frogs, and spiders. Their larvae are often prey to fishes and frogs.
According to Nparks, there are over 123 dragonfly and damselfly species in Singapore. Dragonflies and damselflies belong to same order of insects called Odonata, meaning toothed jaws. Sometimes, they are both collectively referred to as dragonflies. You can tell a dragonfly from a damselfly by looking at how its wings look like at rest. Unlike the dragonfly, whose wings rest horizontally, the damselfly’s wings fold back in line with its abdomen. Damselflies also have a thin body and smaller eyes than the dragonfly.
Common dragonfly species you may spot in Singapore:
Common name: Crimson Dropwing
Scientific name: Trithemis aurora
The Crimson Dropwing is a common native dragonfly species that can be found in urban wetlands––in ponds and lakes. The males are a luminous fuchsia pink and females are golden yellow with black markings on the side.
Common name: Blue Dasher
Scientific name: Brachydiplax chalybea
The Blue Dasher is an abundant native species. They live near still calm bodies of water and particularly like lotus ponds. The males are a chalky blue colour with a black tip at the end of its abdomen and females are black with yellow stripes along the side and top.
Common name: Common Scarlet
Scientific name: Crocothemis servilia
The Common Scarlet is a common native species and are one of the larger red dragonflies found in Singapore. The males are red from head to tail and the female is light brown. Both males and females have a dark vertical line down the centre of their abdomen.
Common name: Common Parasol
Scientific name: Neurothemis fluctuans
The Common Parasol is the most common dragonfly species in Singapore. The males are reddish brown with maroon wings and transparent tips. Females are a dull brown with clear wings.
Common name: Yellow-barred Flutterer
Scientific name: Rhyothemis phyllis
The Yellow-barred Flutterer, also known as the Yellow-striped Flutterer, is common throughout Singapore and have been spotted far away from water. Swarms of the Yellow-barred Flutterer are often seen fluttering over grassy field in search from prey. Both males and females look similar. They are dark with a metallic sheen and have distinctive yellow and black bars on the base of their hind wings.
A key consideration when spotting dragonflies:
Watch your step near water bodies, keep your distance, and be careful not to stomp on dragonflies. The best time for dragonfly watching is from 9 am to 5 pm!
If you come across dragonflies in the wild, we encourage you to (safely and respectfully) capture photos and document your observations. We especially recommend using the local SGBioAtlas app, or the iNaturalist app, which enables you to share and validate your findings within the community.
Discover the wonders of nature, observe the intricacies of the world around you, and let curiosity be your guide. Happy exploring!