Dragonflies eating all my butterflies - What to do?

JenniferinFL(9B Florida)August 9, 2012

We closed on a house back in June and I've been planting away, mostly nectar plants so far mixed in with other ornamentals, but have finally found some host plants too and planted them. (Aristolochia, passion vine, asclepias tuberosa)

Anyhow, I already have seen quite a few different kinds of butterflies and have monarch caterpillars on my milkweed. BUT, when I sit out there watching, it seems that just about every single butterfly that comes to visit gets eaten by the dragonflies. I was excited to see a skipper and a hairstreak that I hadn't spotted before, but, they were eaten before I could identify them positively.

Should I just chalk it up to the "great circle of life" and pat myself on the back for providing food for the dragonflies or is there something I should do to scale back the numbers of dragonflies? They are perched on almost every plant waiting for the poor butterflies to arrive.

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I'm sorry for your dilemma, but you are benefitting the bigger circle of life. Just keep expanding what you have to offer and the butterflies will benefit as well. Even if it's just those that are briefly passing through for some nectar. You're also benefitting the birds and fish who eat the dragonflies. Sorry I don't have a better answer.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 9:44PM
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The dragonflies likely would prefer smaller insects to eat than butterflies. Encourage smaller insects in your yard, except for pest-types of course.

Are you near a pond or other body of water that is the source of the dragonflies?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 11:07PM
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terrene(5b MA)

That is great that you are attracting butterflies. You are obviously providing resources that are attracting them. Perhaps if you expand your gardens, and add plants that are native to your region, that will attract a greater assortment of insects and prey for the dragonflies. Sometimes it takes a few years of developing your gardens and landscape, for a healthy balance of predators and prey to develop.

The only time I've observed a dragonfly taking a butterfly was several years back. A HUGE black dragonfly carried off a Monarch butterfly! Never seen one that big before.

I have a pond nearby, and numerous dragonflies, but they have lots of other insects to eat so maybe that means they don't usually bother the butterflies (which aren't as numerous as bees, moths, wasps, flies, flying beetles, etc.).

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 3:02PM
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JenniferinFL(9B Florida)

Alrighty, I will keep expanding then and hope that eventually there's enough other bugs to keep the dragonflies busy. There are a lot of bugs out here, but, mostly tons of different grasshoppers. Either they aren't a dragonfly favorite or they are too hard to catch. We have a canal behind our house, so I'm sure that the dragonflies have a lot of mosquitoes to eat. We don't see many mosquitoes either, so apparently they're doing a good job at that. We have a lot of frogs and toads, so, they probably put a dent in the available dragonfly food too.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 4:37PM
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Hey, Jennifer, I live in Clermont, which shouldn't be too far from you.

I'm an avid butterfly gardener and I have never seen a dragon fly attack a butterfly. I'm sure it happens, but it can't be all that frequent. I have a ton of butterflies now and quite a few dragaon flies. They seem to get along.

The dragon flies do eat mosquitos, so they are very beneficial to the environment. I have lots of mosquitos now; there are places in my yard that I can hardly walk because of them.

Dragon flies do attract some very cool birds that eat them. Maybe the most spectacular are the kites. Also, the barn swallows and the shrikes love them. I have had times when the swallows come swooping in and the dragon flies go nuts trying to avoid them.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 6:05PM
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Grasshoppers are heavier and far more powerful than butterflies.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 10:44PM
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JenniferinFL(9B Florida)

Sorry about the delay, I thought I had responded! Must have forgotten to submit it.

Tom123, the only ones that attack are the really big rust red colored dragonflies. The regular sized blue and green dragonflies aren't a problem. I wish I could identify them. All I've seen that one get so far is a Gulf Fritillary, something that looked like a kind of skipper, and whatever that quarter sized pale yellow butterfly is. I'll have to pay attention to the birds that come to visit now, we have a whole lot of red cardinals and I get distracted watching them and forget to look for other birds.

Oh well, I found a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar infested passionvine at Lowe's, so, the should give the butterfly population a boost. Maybe even enough to keep up with the dragonflies.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:28PM
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four(9B (near 9a))

"just about every single butterfly that comes to visit gets eaten by the dragonflies.... the only ones that attack are the really big rust red.... All I've seen that one get so far is a Gulf,.. skipper,.. yellow"

Jennifer, three are "all my butterflies" ?

I can report the amusing sight of a Fritillary chasing a dragonfly around and around (also here in Central FL).

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 4:56PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I live miles away from a quiet water source but still see plenty of dragon flies in my yard. I don't like it that they snatch bees right out of the air, let alone butterflies. Just about any insect on the wing is likely prey. Their predator instinct will be triggered if grasshoppers or other jumping insects flit away, but they will not hunt something down that isn't in active motion.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 12:06AM
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megan_anne(TX U.S. z8a)

Send us those dragonflies, Jennifer. I'd rather have "flying dragons" controlling the mosquitoes than "flying aircraft".

We have lots of dragonflies here, including some really huge ones. I've never seen one attack a butterfly. The big green darner dragonflies like to hang out near the Passionvine, yet I have never seen one bother an egg-laying female GF. What I do see are the nasty-tempered Hackberry and Tawny Emperors running off any other butterfly that comes around while they're active. Those Emps are mighty d**n territorial and aggressive! Emps will even chase away Giant Swallowtails-- just imagine the size differential! The GST's are enormous compared to the Emperors, yet the Emps are some serious bullies. Still, it's amusing to watch the Emps zipping about through the trees in the afternoons. Kind of bland, colorwise (the Tawny Emperors are a bit more colorful but not much), but they're pretty snappy and agile flyers. It's like having my own air show. Sorry, I digressed...

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 1:59PM
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Awwww...Hackberry Emperors are some of my favorites! They like to hitch a ride with us in the field now and again. There is nothing so amusing as leading a butterfly walk and a hackberry comes along. Sometimes I think they are there to make sure the information is correct :). They can be aggressive but so can just about any butterfly that sets up a territory. The cabbage whites are aggressive in my yard. Yesterday, they even chased the shuttle when my daughter and I were playing badminton. That was funny!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:33PM
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