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 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 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.