Dragonflies ruled the air. When they evolved some 300 million years ago, they were unquestioned masters of the skies. They were also large – a fossil dragonfly had a wingspan of about 75 cm! Today, we do not have such giant dragonflies flying about. However, they still continue to be strong, powerful and agile fliers. They are also among the fastest flying insects in the world.
Armed with powerful mandibles and 6 spiny legs that form a neat little basket just below their heads, they are also excellent predators. Dragonflies can catch their prey in mid air. They are known to make a meal out of mosquitoes, mayflies, butterflies, moths, and a whole lot of other insects. They virtually feed on anything that they can overpower.
Dragonflies, though predators themselves, must be wary of other organisms which could feed on them. Birds particularly, pick dragonflies with ease. Lizards, frogs, spiders are all potential threats to adult dragonflies and their dainty cousins – the damselflies.
During a recent visit to Corbett National Park I stayed at the Club Mahindra Safari Resort. What I saw here took me completely by surprise. I was walking up the ramp to the dining hall when something on the railing caught my attention. I ventured closer to understand what was happening. To my amazement, I saw a robberfly holding on to a dragonfly. The robberfly was in complete control of the situation – with a firm grip on the dragonfly and the proboscis pierced into its neck, the dragonfly had no chance of escape!
Robberflies are powerful predators too. I have often seen them prey on non-predatory insects much larger than themselves. To see a dragonfly, a powerful predator itself, becoming a meal of a robberfly was a learning indeed.
Often such amazing things happen around us and we are blinded by the urge to see more charismatic things. An open eye and mind can cause far less disappointments when we are in the outdoors for nature always has something on offer, albeit for the discerning eye and mind.