Most people are unlikely to ask you which insects you like, but if they did, it probably only takes seconds to list them. With the exception of entomologists, most people only like a few insects, the harmless and pretty ones, including ladybugs, butterflies, and dragonflies. Despite their popularity, most people aren't able to answer the question "what do dragonflies eat?" These insects are predators and both adults and nymphs (those who live in water) mostly eat other insects they hunt.

What Do Dragonflies Eat?

When answering the question "what do dragonflies eat?" it is important to consider the different kinds of dragonflies. Adult dragonflies are fully grown while dragonfly nymphs are younger and live in the water. Although both are predators, they have slightly different diets.

Adult Dragonflies

Adult dragonflies will eat any insect as long as they are able to catch it. While they usually eat mosquitoes and midges, they also eat butterflies, moths, beetles, bees, flies, and even other dragonflies. The general rule is that larger dragonflies will eat insects of body weight daily.

To catch their food, most dragonflies will capture prey while it is flying. They are able to fly backwards, hover in place, turn in tight spots, and accelerate instantly, and each of these abilities helps them catch prey. Dragonflies can create a type of basket with their legs that let them scoop up a bug and put it in their mouth without taking a break. Other dragonflies simply open their mouths to swallow food as they fly. Yet other dragonflies glean their food, which means they catch the insects that perch above plant stems and leaves. Immature adults will eat caterpillars which hang from the trees.

The following video shows how dragonflies hunt:

Dragonfly Nymphs

Dragonfly nymphs live in the water and they usually wait on aquatic vegetation for their prey. When an insect gets close enough, the dragonfly unfurls their labium, instantly thrusting it forward and grabbing the insect with palpi. The larger dragonfly nymphs may eat small fish or tadpoles as well.

FAQs for Dragonflies

People who wonder "what do dragonflies eat?" also have other questions about these flying insects. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.

Why Are They Called Dragonflies?

The first reference to these insects as dragonflies was in "Sylva Sylvarum: or a Natural Historie in Ten Centuries" by Francis Bacon. This book included various speculations, observations, experiments, analytic discussions, and ancient teachings on everything. There were ten chapters in the book with each containing a hundred items. The book, which was the first to use the term "dragon-fly" was published in 1626. Before this book, dragonflies had also been known as Devil's Darning Needle, Horse Stinger, Devil's riding Horse, Snake Doctor, and Adder Bolt.


Do Dragonflies Bite or Sting?

It is common to ask two related questions, specifically "do dragonflies bite?" and "do dragonflies sting?" The short answer to this question is that no, dragonflies will not bite or sting. Occasionally a large dragonfly may try to bite if you hold it, but it will not break the skin. The protuberances that look like stingers are actually egg-laying tubes and dragonflies don't bite people.


How Long Do Dragonflies Live?

The shortest amount of time that a dragonfly's life cycle will last is around six months, but larger dragonflies can easily live six or seven years. A dragonfly's life is beginning in their larval form in which they live under the surface of the water and catch other invertebrates. Small damselflies may live several weeks as adults that free-fly while large ones may remain in this stage for around four months. Despite this, larger dragonflies are rarely in this stage for over two months with damselflies only being there for two weeks at the most. It is common for dragonflies to die from predation, starvation, or accidents.


What Enemies Do Dragonflies Have?

As with any insect, dragonflies have several enemies. Birds (including hobbies and wagtails), spiders, and frogs all eat dragonflies as part of their diet. In addition, larger dragonflies may also eat smaller ones, as mentioned earlier, meaning that a larger dragonfly would be the enemy of a small damselfly. When dragonflies are living underwater during their larval stage, their enemies include kingfishers, newts, toads, frogs, fish, and other aquatic invertebrates.


How Fast Do They Fly?

The speed of a dragonfly will depend on the exact type as well as their size. Large types of dragonflies can fly about 25 to 30 miles per hour (10 to 15 meters a second). Despite this maximum speed, they are more likely to have an average speed of 10 miles per hour. The general rule is that smaller dragonflies will fly more slowly and this includes damselflies. Medium-sized dragonflies, on the other hand, are frequently able to fly as fast as larger ones despite their slightly smaller size.


How Good Are Dragonflies' Eyes?

Dragonflies have excellent vision and rely on this vision in order to find and then catch small insects in mid-air, as mentioned earlier. As with most insects, dragonflies have compound eyes and this means that each eye has several thousand facets, each of which is individual and contains its own tiny lens. Each of these individual lenses is low resolution, but when each lens and facet works together, they are able to create a high resolution image. In fact, the large number of facets allows for vision that tops that of most other insects. In addition to using their excellent eyesight for hunting, dragonflies also rely on it to find potential mates and avoid predators.


Please Log In or add your name and email to post the comment.