Skip Navigation LinksOdes For Beginners : Biology : Behavior : Predation

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All insects share two basic traits for avoiding being killed by a predator, behavioral modification and morphological defense. But like everything else, things go wrong that make the insect vulnerable to predators.  While most adult dragonflies are alert and fast enough that they are seldom captured by predators they can be very vulnerable as tenerals or when chilled in the early morning.  It is common to observe a teneral on its maiden flight get snatched up by a Catbird, Flycatcher or Waxwing. Frogs will gulp down the unwary ode that gets too close, and herons have been observed snatching one teneral after another from the edges of ponds during mass emergences.

The PredatorA number of dragonflies routinely catch and dine on damselflies or another dragonfly, sometimes even their own species. This is also common among the damselflies.

Other insects such as wasps and bees have also been known to harm odonates.  While I was photographing a perched Swamp Darner (right) a single wasp popped up from nowhere, circling the darner repeatedly and stinging it until it fell to its death.  The wasp neither ate it or carried it off.  The reason for such behavior I have yet to find out.

The PreySpider webs are a common hazard to odonates, especially damselflies and teneral dragonflies who are not very strong fliers.  Many of them accidentally fly into webs; if unable to free themselves they are destined to be dinner for a hungry spider.

Carnivorous plants such as sundew may trap the unwary damselfly with their sticky leaves.  The gooey liquid which the leaves produce ultimately breaks down body tissues in the ode which is slowly digested by the plant.

Odonate larvae are not immune to predators.  Although equipped for rapid locomotion, they sometimes falls prey to fish, frogs, toads, newts, ducks and others.

If that's not all, odonate eggs also have predators.  Fish and other insects find odonate eggs quite a delicacy. Small parasitic wasps swim through the water searching for odonate eggs. The wasps lay their own eggs on each dragonfly egg, when the wasps eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eats the contents of the dragonfly eggs.

Mite Infestation Less obvious enemies of odonates are parasitic red or green mites that gather in clumps resembling little beads on the underside of the thorax and abdomen infiltrating body tissue, causing irritation or infection.  If too many are present they may also cause an instability during flight.  Parasitic infestations are for some reason more common in the pond dragonflies, notably the Skimmer Family (Libellula).  Another bothersome culprit is a biting gnat which attaches itself and sucks blood from the wing veins eventually weakening the insect.

© 2019 Sheryl Chacon Search