Dragonflies are insects best known for their long slender bodies and two pairs of translucent wings. There are more than 5600 species of dragonflies known today and it is thought that many more remain undiscovered. As with all insects, dragonflies have six legs but they are used more for catching their food than for walking. Dragonflies are one of the fastest insects in the world with one researcher claiming that a certain species is capable of almost 100 km/h (60 mph). Dragonflies are an important food source for many larger animals such as; birds, spiders, lizards, fish, frogs and larger dragonflies. The diet of the dragonfly also plays a very important part in the food chain.
What do dragonflies eat?
Dragonflies are carnivores (meat eaters) and are the primary predators of many species. An adult dragonfly will eat virtually any small insect that is available including; bees, flies, gnats, wasps, ants, termites and other small insects. Dragonflies play a very important role in managing the numbers of these small insects. Dragonflies have a large appetite and can eat their own body weight in as little as 30 minutes. They catch their food by forming a basket with their legs to catch the small insect. They then quickly crush the insect with their powerful mandibles for swallowing.
Dragonfly nymphs (the early stage of their life where they live in the water) are also carnivores and they commonly eat; mosquito larvae, worms, tadpoles, small fish and other insects that live in or on the water. At this stage they can even leave the water for a short period to find prey.
Did you know?
Dragonflies are very important for reducing the numbers of mosquitoes as they eat them at two stages of their lifecycle.