Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Weekly MUSE: Dragonflies

Photo Credit: Paul Stein
Last week I visited Emerald Park Elementary in Kent, Washington. And during our school assembly we talked about what MUSES inspired me to write HERBERT, my new book. Flies, honeybees, bullfrogs, and DRAGONFLIES were just a few.

I showed some of my research on these MUSES and thought I would share what I learned with you in the coming weeks.

If you have read my book, HERBERT, you know that the DRAGONFLIES are the most feared creatures in the book. So, let’s take a look at DRAGONFLIES and find out why they have such a SCARY reputation in the insect world.

Looks like we have found our MUSE! DRAGONFLIES!

Dragonflies were some of the first insects to evolve on Earth some 300 million years ago. So, while the dinosaurs were roaming, the dragonflies were soaring.

But these dragonflies were a bit different than the ones we see today. In shape, they were the same, but in size they were MUCH larger. Today dragonflies have a wingspan of up to five inches, but prehistoric dragonflies had wingspans of up to two feet! Some researchers believe there was more oxygen in the air back then, which allowed things to grow BIGGER.

Take a look at this video. About half way through you will see REAL fossils of these gigantic “flying dragons”!

WOW! Did you see the dragonfly emerging from the nymph stage of metamorphosis? Watching the wings unroll is one of the COOLEST things I have ever seen!

Dragonflies have three major life stages: egg, nymph and adult. This is called metamorphosis. Butterflies also undergo metamorphosis, but they have four stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult.

Dragonfly eggs hatch underwater. The nymph dragonfly may live underwater for a few years before climbing to the surface. And while they are underwater, they are tiny predators. Take a look at this video to see a dragonfly nymph on the hunt.

And the hunt doesn’t end here. Once dragonflies become adults they catch their prey in midair. In fact, if a dragonfly loses its ability to fly, it will die of starvation.

Dragonflies have expert flying skills. They can hoover, fly straight up and down, and dart away at lightning speed (well at least it looks like). These mini aviators have inspired engineers to try building robots that can fly like dragonflies.

Photo Credit: Skyfish
Not only can dragonflies FLY very well, they can also SEE very well. Two gigantic eyes make up most of the dragonfly’s head. These are eyes are called compound eye because they have 100’s of lenses instead of just one lens like the human eye. This gives the dragonfly to see every angle, except directly behind them. That’s why dragonflies are so hard to catch!

Without these amazing predators we call DRAGONFLIES, we would have A LOT more mosquitos. Dragonflies can eat up to 100 mosquitos a day. That is 100 less mosquitos to feast on our blood. YAY, DRAGONFLIES!

There are nearly 5000 species of dragonflies. Some dragonflies are adults, some live for only a few days, while others may live up to a year.

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these WHAT IF questions will help you get started.

WHAT IF your main character was a bug collector and found a living prehistoric dragonfly?

WHAT IF your main character was a dragonfly who craved jelly beans instead of mosquitos?

WHAT IF your main character built a dragonfly helicopter?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “metamorphosis”. Here is the definition: a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism.


  1. What if a dragonfly made a dragonfly town?
    What if a dragonfly was still two feet long?
    What if a dragonfly works for a spy because of its eyesight?
    What if a dragonfly didn't long wings in the dinosaur time?
    What if a dragonfly was friends with bees?

    By Celeste B

  2. - What if Dragonflies had a wingspan as big as a plane
    - What if Dragonflies were as smart as humans
    - What if Dragonflies couldn’t fly – like Penguins
    - What if Dragonflies could use their compound eyes and lenses to focus sunlight into a laser beam
    - What if Dragonflies were in some way responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs
    - What if Dragonflies could eat small birds (in flight)
    - What if Dragonflies could fly straight up into space like a rocket
    - What if Dragonfly eggs hatched in water and they could fly under water as well as in the air

    - Amar

  3. Picking up on my Sleazy series from last year – Time had come for another contest to decide who was going to rule the universe for the next million years. It was Sleazy and his evil gang of Space Grizzlies Vs. The Good Guys. The competition was a flying race around the earth. The good guys picked ‘SuperFly’ the Dragonfly as their representative. SuperFly was a pre-historic dragonfly with a wingspan as big as a modern plane. He was smart and could use his compound eyes to focus sunlight into a laser beam. Sleazy was an expert flier as well. Rules of the race – first one to fly around the earth (circumference = 24901 miles = 40074274944 mm) . Each competitor gets to use his secret weapon once during the race. SuperFly decided to use the laser convertor as his secret weapon. Sleazy picked the rebound protector for his secret weapon – this device rebounded whatever was thrown at it.
    Each competitor also gets to use a turbo boost that gives you a 1000 miles in one second, one time during the race.

    The race began over Seattle. After the first 5 minutes, Superfly shot a sunlight converted laser beam at Sleazy. Sleazy pulled out the rebound protector and the laser beam came right back at SuperFly. Luckily for SuperFly – he saw it just in time and using his 2-wing system and expert flying skills shot straight up in the air, just avoiding the laser beam. Both competitors had used up their secret weapon. The race continued and just over Africa, Sleazy used his turbo boost taking him near India. Superfly flapped his wings really hard and got closer and closer but Sleazy still had the lead. They continued on and SuperFly closed in. Just over Chicago, Superfly used his turbo boost and shot past Sleazy just as they were finishing over Seattle. The Good Guys had won – they saved the world and got to rule the universe for the next million years.

    - Amar

    P.S. We should be thankful to DragonFlies – not just for eating mosquitos but also for the beautiful life we all have today.

  4. What if there was a zombie dragonfly invasion! And they were giant prehistoric dragonflies!!!!! And we had to get them into a giant spaceship and fly them to the moon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    -Henry (SCDS)

  5. what if giant DragonFlies invaded and made everyone giant fish so that they could eat them and then a guy made the fish into super humans and they busted out of the DragonFlies and retook over the world?

    Levi (SCDS)

  6. What if a Dragonfly didn't know how to fly?

    ~Vanessa B

  7. what if a dragonfly had no wings but could still fly?
    what if they had wings as big as a box?
    what if 1,000 small adult dragonflies could fit in each others wings?
    what if a baby dragonfly ate the biggest lobster in the world?
    what if then it turned big as the world?
    what if it bounced instead of flying?
    what if it tasted like a cake?
    what if it was made of ice cream?
    what if it melted?
    what if it flew to the moon?
    11. what if it ate a cloud?
    12 what if it lived in a nest?
    13 what it thought it was a bird?
    14 what if it wrote?
    15 what if it sung?
    16 what if it could read?
    17 what if it felt like rice?
    18 what if it played a basket ball game and won?
    19 what if it only laughed?
    20 what if it rode a zipline with you?

    -dragonfly bonza

  8. What if dragonflies ate venus flytraps? What if dragonflies had bees instead of wings? What if dragonflies were as big as the Empire State Building? What if dragonflies smelled like watermelons? What if dragonflies built the White House? What if a dragonfly was Lebron James' cousin? What if dragonflies were miniature wasps? What if a drangonfly ate Dracula? What if dragonflies came from the earth's core? What if dragonflies came from Jupiter? What if dragonflies could set something ablaze? What if dragonflies got scholarships to Yale? What if dragonflies were dragonflies first and then became nymphs? What if dragonflies acted the same way as dogs? What if a dragonfly ate you? What if dragonflies could turn into dragons? What if dragonflies blew up into mushroom clouds? What if dragonflies could eat houses? What if dragonflies had apple orchards? What if dragonflies created democracy?

  9. what if dragonflies were mechanics
    what if dragonflies were from mars
    what if dinosaur age dragonflies were ancestors of mythical dragons
    what if dragonflies aged slower than humans
    what if the dragonfly metamorphosis happened backwards
    what if professor watermelon could turn into a dragonfly
    what if dragonflies became superheroes
    what if dragonflies met the queen of England
    what if dragonflies ate pillows
    what if dragonflies made TV's
    what if dragonflies became a currency
    what if dragonflies teamed up with Darth Vader against the Jedi
    what if dragonflies invented ikea
    what if dragonflies were photographers
    what if dragonflies watched TV
    what if dragonflies reached up to the size of a aeroplane
    what if dragonflies had weddings
    what if dragonflies had funerals
    what if dragonflies gave birth to young
    what if a dragonfly worked for the F.B.I.

    ~the aussie kangaroo