What do dragonflies eat?

reddingJuly 31, 2011

Does anyone know much about dragonflies? We have quite a few of them in the pasture, and I've noticed the same thing in particularly hot and dry years. They seem to come in after the grasshoppers have arrived. Are they preying on the hoppers, or what?

The ones we have now look like mini-bi-planes with the dark stripes on their wings. I'd like to know more about them.


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Damsel Flies ???

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 5:30PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

They are carnivorous and eat whatever they choose, although I think the bulk of their diet consists of mosquitoes, flies, black flies/buffalo gnats, etc.

When they are young and are in the nymph stage in the water, the usually eat mosquito larvae, worms and aquatic insects.

After they leave the water and are flying insects, they eat mosquitoes, flies, blackflies/buffalo gnats, gnats, craneflies/mayflies and, less commonly, bees, butterflies and moths.

Can they eat grasshoppers? Sometimes. I haven't noticed they're especially fond of them though.

I love dragonflies and damselflies. They are one of my favorite predators.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 5:53PM
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Dawn, I love them too. Now knowing the things they eat, I'm even more fond of them!
Do the assorted colors ever come around here? We used to have blue and red in that place out west (which shall remain un-named). The ones I see here all seem to have the dark stripes on the wings.



    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 6:35PM
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I have them hovering over the yard all day long. I don't know what it is about my very small garden that attracts them, except that I don't use chemicals to kill stuff because I am a butterfly gardener, and consequently there are lots of insects in the garden. I have the ones you mention, Pat, and have seen the Blue Darner, and a reddish orange one frequently as well. I also water a lot, which may attract them as well. I used to think they were only found very near bodies of water, but I am quite a distance from the lake.

There are quite a few colorful and interesting insects in the garden this year. Maybe because I do have a wildlife garden?


    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 10:44PM
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snake doctors


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 12:12AM
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Dragon flies might eat an occasional grasshopper, as they are very opportunistic. But what they grab, the pretty much grab out of the air. Years ago I read about a study in which they captured dragon flies and examined what they had been eating. One, in particular, was so stuffed with mosquitoes that it couldn't even fit another in its mouth.

Like our beloved praying mantis, however, the dragon fly loves also to dine on honey bees. I just accept this as part of life. Nothing I can do about it and my bees seem to thrive, even though, every year at this time, we have clouds of dragon flies in the air. I suspect they go after whatever is easiest, and the honey bee, though not a fast flier, is not as easy as mosquitoes and some other flying insects.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 5:43AM
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George, thanks for that info. Anything that eats mosquitoes is a hero in my book, and it's nice if it's something I already like to begin with.

Speaking of preying mantis, I was working in my western garden one day and went back into the house before I noticed something was on my shoulder. When I brushed it off, I realized it was the biggest preying mantis I've ever seen. It had to be at least 4" long!

Along the same vein, how is the bat population in OK? I don't think I've seen any, and I would think they'd be buzzing under our big yard light at night, harvesting the bugs it attracts. Does anyone on the forum have a bat house?


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 11:24AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I tried to identify mine last summer and it drove me crazy. Some of them are the same species but different colors depending on whether they are male or female. I bought a book but they are too fast for me.

Here is a link that might be useful: dragonfly pictures

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 3:31PM
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Thanks for the link. I think what I have is the four-spotted pennant, although it appears to have a more solid stripe of dark across the wings, instead of the more rounded blob.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 3:55PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


We have them in all different colors here, though mostly browns, greens and blues.

In a wet year we have billions of them, and in a dry year merely millions.

Seriously, we aways have a lot because we have 5 ponds, 3 creeks, a swamp and at least 3 different areas where springs come bubbling up out of the ground. At the present time, though, only the lilypond has water in it, but only because we add water weekly with the water hose. Everything else is as dry as a bone.

I always have them around the garden and yard, even in the worst of droughts.

We have bats here most years, but I don't think we've seen any at all this year. We don't have a bathouse, but leave very tall snags (standing dead trees) in the woods for them. It could be that they are out there in the evenings, and we aren't seeing them because it is too hot to sit outside in the lawnchairs and watch them like we usually do. We're not seeing as many barn swallows either, so it may be the insect population (excluding spider mites and grasshoppers) is lower than usual so it cannot support a large predator population.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 4:21PM
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wifey2mikey(7a Tulsa, OK)

Susan has already seen this picture on the butterfly page (so forgive me Susan for reposting here.) This dragon fly landed right in front of me when I was out with my camera - as if to pose. Ham.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 12:09PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Great shot!


    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 12:49PM
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