Dragonflies are fascinating insects. If you want to attract these amazing insects to your garden, it is important to ask: What do dragonflies eat?
Dragonflies are carnivores. They basically eat smaller insects such as midges, mosquitoes, bees, butterflies, moths, gnats, mayflies, and other aphids.
At the earlier stage of their life cycle, dragonfly nymphs eat tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, and other insect larvae.
What are dragonflies?
There are over 5,000 species of dragonflies. Dragonflies are insects that belong to the order Odonata, which means “toothed ones.” This is because dragonflies have sharp serrated teeth.
They are further categorized into the group, or clade, known as Anisoptera. This comes from the Greek words “anisos pteron”, which translates as “uneven wing.” This is due to the back hind wings of a dragonfly being larger than their front fore wings.
Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve on earth over 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but dragonfly fossils have been found with wingspans of up to two feet long.
Dragonfly life cycle
Adult dragonflies have large eyes that almost encompass their entire head, so they have amazing eyesight and can see in many different directions, except directly behind themselves.
Dragonflies are predators, even when they are young. They hatch in freshwater and live in this aquatic environment for up to three years.
Dragonfly larvae are known as nymphs or naiads. When they finally mature to adults, they emerge from the water to crack out of their exoskeleton, stretching out their wings to dry them in the air. Once they begin to fly, some species may live for just a few days, while others may survive for up to a year.
Adult dragonflies are often found living nearby to water and can fly many miles in just one day. The globe skinner dragonfly is known to migrate back and forth across the entire Indian Ocean, which equates to traveling over 11,000 miles!
They are experts at flying and can easily move in any direction or just hover in one place.
What do dragonflies eat?
What do dragonflies eat is mostly other flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes. They also will prey on bees, butterflies, moths, gnats, mayflies, and other aphids.
Dragonflies nymphs’ food mainly consists of tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, and other insect larvae. What do dragonflies eat has even been observed as other young dragonflies, so they can be classed as cannibalistic carnivores.
When they have matured from the larval stage into adult dragonflies, dragonflies eat flying insects. Dragonflies catch their prey while flying through the air, using their feet to snatch up their prey.
How many mosquitoes do dragonflies eat in a day?
Dragonflies are a great addition to many environments that suffer from large populations of mosquitoes. The average dragonfly can eat between thirty to several hundred mosquitoes in just one day.
People have successfully introduced dragonflies into some habitats to help control the population of mosquitoes.
This is especially important in areas where malaria-carrying mosquitoes thrive. As mosquito youngs are formed in water, dragonfly larvae will eat mosquito larvae before they grow into adults and potentially harm humans.
Dragonflies and damselflies
Dragonflies can sometimes be mistaken for damselflies, known by their scientific name as Zygoptera. This is because they look similar, and both have serrated teeth.
Damselflies are often smaller in stature than dragonflies, but what do dragonflies eat is similar to the damselflies’ diet. It mainly consists of small, soft-bodied insects such as aphids, mosquitoes, and gnats.
However, there is one difference in their diets, as when it comes to giant damselflies, they have been observed feeding on spiders, which has not been recorded among dragonfly populations.