Dragonflies – Part of Algeria’s Biodiversity

Algeria has a number of national parks and nature reserves where visitors can view the country’s wildlife in it natural surroundings. The most easily spotted wildlife in Algeria includes boars, gazelles and jackals, with an abundance of bird species, reptiles and other creatures adding to the biodiversity of the country. What may sometimes be overlooked, however, is how important insects are to maintaining the balance in nature. In recent years the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has been sounding a warning that a variety of insects are in danger of becoming extinct, with a number of species having already done so. Among these are Algeria’s colorful dragonflies which are so important to the environment because they help control populations of harmful insects, most notably mosquitoes, flies and ants, while posing no risk to humans. In fact, the presence of dragonflies is an indication of the balance of the environment – the more dragonflies, the healthier an environment is likely to be.

As part of their life-cycle is dependent on water, dragonflies are found where there is water. The three stages of a dragonfly’s life-cycle are the egg, the nymph and the adult, with most of its life-cycle being spent as a nymph in water. After mating, the female dragonfly either deposits her eggs on a plant in the water, or simply drops her eggs into water. The eggs hatch into nymphs which remain in the water for up to four years as they develop, emerging in spring as adult dragonflies and only living for around two months, during which time they will find mates and start the whole process again.

With their fragile wings, iridescent bodies and long needle-like claspers (mistakenly thought to be stingers), dragonflies have an almost medieval appearance – even their name may conjure up visions of mythological creatures – and there are some common misconceptions about these beneficial insects, the most common being that their sting can cause death, while the fact is dragonflies can’t sting at all. It is also said that the dragonflies we see today are descended from huge dragonflies the size of dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago, with the fact being that the largest fossil on record has a wingspan of around 76cm.

Some of the areas in which dragonflies have been studied in Algeria, most notably by the Biology Department of the University of Guelma, include north-eastern Algeria, Chichaya in Numidia, and Lake Tonga, which together with Lake Oubeira form part of the El Kala wetland system – one of the four major wetland areas in the Western Mediterranean region.