Baby Dragonflies Are Shockingly Ferocious Hunters

Dragonfly Nymph - Photo by Dave Huth
Dragonfly nymph. Photo by Dave Huth.

Dragonflies are beautiful, fascinating insects to observe. On warm days, you’ll often see them flitting and fluttering around your local pond or lake. But what you don’t see is their disturbing childhood.

As you can see, this weird, wingless creature looks nothing like a dragonfly. In that case, it isn’t all that different from the young of other insects. Many flying insects begin their lives as flightless juveniles called “nymphs,” and they usually bear little resemblance to their parents in this form.

Dragonflies begin their lives in the water. As nymphs, they can breathe underwater through gills in their rectum (lovely, we know), and they are voracious predators. Water beetles, tadpoles, and even small fish are all part of the menu for these hungry little hunters in training.

Using lightning-fast reflexes, the nymphs hunt by extending its labium (lip) and grabbing prey with the two sharp fangs. In order to shoot out the labium like this, the nymph takes in water, seals its anus and contracts its abdominal muscles to increase the pressure in its body. All of this happens in milliseconds before the unlucky victim even has a moment to react.

But dragonfly nymphs don’t just stop at invertebrates. In a cruel twist of irony, they also eat tadpoles, which might explain why adult frogs are so eager to gobble up adult dragonflies — revenge, anyone?

Watch how the dragonfly nymph savagely ambushes and grabs unsuspecting tadpoles in the video below.

When these “baby” dragonflies grow up, they will start breathing air and ruling the skies. Tadpoles and fish will no longer be on the menu, but other insects (including other dragonflies) will be fair game.