July 16, 2020

I was infatuated with nature documentaries as a child. Watching mighty predators stalk antelope across grassy savannahs before using their powerful claws and teeth to take down their prey. I still adore these documentaries as an adult, but I have since learned that the same scene can be witnessed every day in my own backyard. And no, that does not mean I have lions and gazelles running around my house. I am referring to a small but outstanding predator that can be found in anyone’s yard…dragonflies!

Dragonflies are incredible hunters that successfully capture prey up to 95% of the time they go after a meal. For comparison, a pride of lions is close to 30%. While we will not see a dragonfly chasing down deer that are eating people’s begonias, adult dragonflies predate on mosquitos, flies, gnats, and pretty much any insect smaller than them. This diverse diet is accompanied by a large appetite where one dragonfly is estimated to consume ~100 mosquitos a day. These reapers of the sky are not only great predators as adults, but the aquatic nymphs are just as voracious. While living underwater, the young feed on any aquatic creature they can fit in their mouths. In the case of young darner dragonflies, they will even catch tadpoles and small fish!

Considering the diet and habitats they require, dragonflies are easy to find around Palmetto Bluff. They can be found along the inland waterway, buzzing around the equestrian area, or right in someone’s backyard. It is not a challenge to keep dragonflies around, but here are some things we can do to ensure the presence of these amazing predators.

1. Create a small pond in your backyard to provide a nursery habitat for dragonflies.

2. Provide native grasses and wildflowers around the edges of water features and open fields. While they are not interested in the plants themselves, tall plants offer exceptional vantage points for dragonflies to sally forth after prey.

3. Reduce or eliminate insecticide use around the house as these chemicals also kill dragonflies. The more dragonflies we lose, the more trouble we will have with mosquitos, gnats, and midges.

If you are interested in learning more about dragonflies, I recommend either of these guides:

Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies

Dragonflies & Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast

Written by Aaron Palmieri.

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