What do dragonflies eat? And other dragonfly facts

Broad-bodied chaster dragonfly resting on twig
Dragonflies come in all sorts of bright colours and sizes (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Keep your eyes peeled for dragonflies, and check out our fascinating facts about these colourful creatures.

What do dragonflies eat?

Dragonflies eat other insects, such as flies, midges and mosquitoes, as well as other smaller dragonflies. They’ll even snack on a butterfly! They can eat something that big because they’re able to open their mouths very wide and chomp on their prey with their powerful jaws.
They’re such expert hunters that they often catch their prey with their feet in mid-flight!

How long do dragonflies live?

Dragonflies can live for several years. They spend most of their time – usually up to four years – as nymphs or larvae. Adult dragonflies usually live for around two months.

But there are exceptions! The shortest dragonfly life cycle takes about six months from egg to death, and the longest can take around six or seven years!

Find out more about dragonfly life cycles and how to tell them apart from their close relatives, damselflies, in our dragonfly and damselfly blog.

Dragonfly eyes are HUGE

Close-up of southern hawker dragonfly eyes
A dragonfly's huge eyes help it spot prey (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk

A dragonfly’s eyes take up most of its head. This means they have incredible vision and get a panoramic view all around them – they can spot prey up to 12 metres away in any direction.

It also means they’re pretty good at avoiding the birds, frogs, fish and big spiders that like to snack on them too. And it’s no use creeping up behind a dragonfly to try and catch it as it really does have eyes in the back of its head!

How fast can a dragonfly fly?

Hawker dragonflies have a maximum speed of almost 30 miles per hour, which makes them one of the fastest insects in the UK!

Dragonfly wings are pretty amazing too. Because dragonflies can use each of their four wings independently, they’re able to fly forwards, backwards and sideways, as well as hovering.

When did dragonflies first appear?

They were one of the first types of insect to appear on the planet around 300 million years ago – even before dinosaurs. Back then, they looked a bit different to today’s dragonflies though – fossils show that some had wingspans of up to 60cm!

Look out for these beautiful creatures near ponds, streams and wetlands. Don’t forget to take along our dragonflies and damselflies ID sheet. Seen an amazing one? Try to get a picture and post it on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter using #NatureDetectives.

Have you spotted any dragonflies?

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