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What Do Dragonflies Eat?

Category: Insects.

One of the more interesting insects around is the dragonfly. They are fast and can zip and zoom around swamps, lakes, and other water habitats in amazing ways. The little insects are some of the biggest eaters in the insect kingdom and they have different eating habits depending on what stage of their life cycle they are in. The different stages of their life basically consist of babies, or nymphs, and adults. They will live their first stage of life underwater and their second stage above, flying around.

Emperor dragonfly eating a small tortoishell butterfly. © Ashley Beolens (watch it on YouTube).

Babies or nymphs

When dragonflies are born, they immediately have an appetite and what an appetite it is! They can begin to feed straight away, searching for other bugs since they are insectivores and are great at hunting. They are very fast, even underwater, and will eat anything they come across if it is meat. It has been said that these small creatures can eat their entire body weight in less than an hour. They never get full and will constantly eat, eat, eat. This helps to control the bug population, of course, and is very beneficial to all of us.

Their favorite food

Though they will eat just about anything, their favorite meals are mosquito larvae. The meals change when they hatch into adults, but the insatiable appetite does not.

Adult dragonflies

A flag-tailed spinyleg dragonfly eating a gulf fritillary butterfly. © TexasEagle.

As adults that can now fly, they will primarily eat flying insects. They can catch bugs flying around and do so with ease. Because they are so fast, very little can escape them. They make it seem effortless, but they can use their legs as a sort of net to grasp other bugs until they land and can eat them.

Are there favorite bugs for the adult dragonfly?

Yes indeed! Flying insects of any variety. Will they eat anything else? Of course! If there are not enough flying insects, they will revert to ants and other land-based bugs. A dragonfly is basically going to eat, regardless of species. Although they eat primarily bugs we see as pests, they can also eat other things we actually don’t want them to eat such as bees. It has been said that an entire hive can be eaten if not careful, so if you keep bees, this is a thing to keep in mind. It may be great to have them around to keep down the mosquito population, but you can imagine what they will do to your beehive if you are not aware!

Dragonflies eat constantly

As you can see, dragonflies will eat constantly regardless of where the food comes from and on top of that, they eat in different stages of their life in different places. Basically they are an eating machines that are beneficial to us and we are lucky to have them. Next time you see a dragonfly, look closely as it may have a mouthful of food.


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