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Feeding

Dragonfly FeedingDragonflies and damselflies are some of the best hunters in the insect world.  Their powerful, acrobatic flight enables them to catch many small insects.  Nearly all of their hunting is done on the wing.

Dragonflies rely heavily on their compound eyes for capturing their food. They use their spiny legs to form a basket which helps trap the prey. The mandibles are used to tear it apart and then devour it. The dragonfly has an enormous appetite and will eat almost anything including mosquitoes, gnats, and on occasion, other dragonflies.  In only a few hours the dragonfly can eat its weight in prey.

Dragonflies find their prey in several ways. Flyers such as the Emeralds and Darners patrol a limited area where food is available. They may cruise at various heights while feeding along the way.  Often they gather in swarms at favorable locations. Skimmers and Clubtails perch and wait for an insect to fly near them.  When the prey gets within reach, they dart after it and catch it. The feeding behaviors of dragonflies and damselflies are dictated by the ability to locate food and select what to eat. 

bio_behavior_feedingCompetition for prey in a given area is reduced by selection size among the species. Petaltails and clubtails eat fairly large prey while darners and spiketails take on medium size prey and cruisers, emeralds, and skimmers prefer smaller prey. Most odonates prefer to take only moving prey but will eat almost anything put in their mouths. If captured and left with no food, they may even resort to dining on the end of their own abdomen.

Feeding behaviors are limited by feeding opportunities, environmental factors, metabolism, and influences of competing activities, such as mating and egg laying. Food intake is generally decreased during the breeding season, because more energy is spend on breeding. Feeding behaviors affected by seasonal changes are sex and time of day.  

In contrast, larvae are generally sit-and-wait predators, although there are a few species where the larvae actively seek prey by climbing on and through vegetation. Larvae will basically eat almost anything, including small tadpoles and fish.

Dragonflies drink by thrusting their bodies down onto the water's surface in a sequence of one to three dips. Water is absorbed through the exoskeleton. Dew is also absorbed on cool mornings.

© 2018 Sheryl Chacon Search