When you think about dragonflies, you may picture them skimming over the water of lakes, ponds and rivers. However, they actually spend most of their lives under the water. These distinctive insects, like most bugs, actually have three life stages: eggs, nymphs and adults.

They only become the flying, helicopter-like creatures most people are familiar with after two to four years of living underwater as nymphs. You may have wondered at times what these stick-thin creatures eat, or if they eat anything at all, and many are surprised to learn that a dragonfly can eat its own weight in food in less than an hour. These insects are the falcons of the bug world, commanding the skies and catching prey at will. Keep reading if you want to learn more about the diet and hunting tactics of both nymph and adult dragonflies.

Dragonfly nymphs are born hungry. They hatch from eggs in the water and immediately begin to hunt for food. They have no wings, but they are fast and agile in the water, allowing them to pick off other small insects and escape fish with ease. They shift through sediment on the bottom of lakes and ponds hunting for eggs and other food, but they can also swim proficiently. A nymph can out-swim most small water bugs, making them formidable at any depth. They breathe water through gills but can also launch themselves into the air and catch hapless prey on the shore before returning to their aquatic habitat. Their diet usually consists of mosquito larvae, but they are also known to take worms, eggs and even small fish. Nymphs are able to attack with such devastating speed and power because of a special propulsion system they were given. Their long bodies funnel water like a rocket, shooting them forward at just the right moment to snatch up prey. They're rarely seen by people because of where they live, but dragonflies spend the majority of life in the nymph stage, and are brutally efficient hunters in the water. Eventually, however, it is time to leave the pond and take to the air.

Dragonfly nymphs transform into full-sized adults once they exit the water, undergoing a rapid change in just two hours and emerging with wings and access to a whole new kind of hunting. Their wings are immensely strong, and combined with their lightweight, aerodynamic bodies dragonflies easily reach speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour. They also have large, acute eyes that can pick out and follow moving targets with a sharpness most animals can only envy. This makes them the terror of the skies for other small insects. What do dragonflies eat?, well Dragonflies commonly eat bees, flies and mosquitoes, although anything small enough is fair game. They catch flying prey by overtaking them and scooping them up in their legs. They then bite into their meals with jaws so powerful that the poor victims stand no chance. The dragonfly then lands to ingest its catch in peace. Dragonflies are some of the most beautiful insects on the planet with their glistening skin and delicate wings, but few recognize that they are master hunters. They are descended from prehistoric creatures with wingspans two feet wide and capable of catching animals the size of a cat! Thankfully, modern dragonflies are completely harmless to humans and may even rest on you if you sit still enough. These insects are some of the most amazing creatures you'll ever see, if you just take the time to appreciate them.



A What Do They Eat? project.