Dragonflies are large predatory insects mostly found in watery areas. They are characterized by two large compound eyes that cover most of their heads, long membranous wings, short antennae and long, slender bodies.
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Although a dragonfly is similar to a damselfly, they have different kinds of wings and are larger. Also, the eyes of the dragonfly are together on top of their head, whereas the damselfly’s eyes are on the sides of their heads.
Adult dragonflies have metallic or iridescent colors, which are produced by structural coloration, a feature that makes them very conspicuous during flights. Generally, their overall coloration involves a combination of red, yellow, black and brown pigments, with other structural colors.
A freshly emerged adult dragonfly, the teneral, is usually pale colored, but gets the typical colors within a few days. Their wings are mostly clear with dark visible veins. To escape predators, the nymphs are usually a blend of grey, green and dull brown.
In terms of habitat, dragonflies are mostly found in slow moving fresh water such as streams and ponds, but can also be found in shallow waters like swamps. Although they stay near water bodies, adult dragonflies occasionally fly away to hunt for food.
The process of reproduction is complex for these insects. They are among the few groups of insects that have an indirect sperm transfer system as well as sperm storage, sperm competition and delayed fertilization.
Many dragonflies, especially the males, are territorial, forming territories against other species as well as their own. This provides a suitable habitat for females to lay their eggs in and for larvae to develop. Females lay their eggs mostly in/near water bodies and on floating plants.
The eggs hatch into nymphs, a stage in which most of the dragonfly’s life is spent. This stage may last up to five years, but in smaller species, it may last between two months and three years.
They are hemimetabolous insects, which means that they undergo an incomplete metamorphosis, never having a pupal stage. An adult dragonfly simply emerges from the nymph and goes on to live an average lifespan of up to 6 years.
Being predators, dragonflies are the most efficient and effective hunters, whether in aquatic larva or terrestrial adult stage. The nymphs eat mosquito larvae, aquatic insects, worms, small aquatic vertebrates (like tadpoles) and small fish.
Adult dragonflies aren’t picky eaters and will feed on any live insect they can catch. Mosquitoes and midges form the bulk of their diet, but they also prey on flies, butterflies, bees, moths, beetles, ants, and termites.
Types Of Fish That Eat Dragonflies
Although they are predators of tiny fish, dragonflies are also insects of prey to bigger fish such as trout, arowana (which is found in fresh waters that dragonflies love), gold fish, flower horn, oscar fish, crayfish and others.
Other Things That Feed On Dragonflies
Mature and juvenile dragonflies have multiple sets of predators. While in an aquatic larval stage, their primary predators are amphibians such as newts and toads, ducks and damselflies. When a nymph senses a predator danger, it pretends to be dead or swim away quickly.
Adult dragonflies have a huge assortment of other animals that feed on them. They include reptiles, arthropods, and tiny mammals like frogs, water shrews and fellow insects. Birds and bees also occasionally feed on them.
Plants sometimes eat dragonflies. Sundew, a meat eating plant eats invertebrates like dragonfly for nitrogen nutrients. Many dragon flies change their skins to complement the environment they are in, a mechanism used to help them stay away from the predator radar.