Shoutout to my aunt for these awesome photos! Since I’ve already mentioned them in a post or two, I figured it’s about time I talk about dragonflies.
More specifically, how they’re infinitely superior to butterflies and no one can tell me otherwise.
You’re probably wondering why I’m comparing butterflies to dragonflies in the first place rather than pairing butterflies with moths. I probably will make a post like that at some point explaining the differences between butterflies and moths, but today I wanted to compare what I think of as two of the most popular insects. The relative popularity of these insects is entirely my own opinion; I know there are lots of ladybug, bee and firefly fans out there, but butterflies and dragonflies appear most frequently in the media I’ve seen and seem to be similarly beloved for their colors, design, and for not biting or stinging anyone. While I do plan on doing a moth/butterfly comparison blog at some point, today it’s butterflies vs. dragonflies.
Let us begin by examining the butterfly: it has pretty wings and is an important pollinator, although arguably less important than our friends the bees. Still very important, still would be disastrous if removed from the ecosystem, but bees are… busier (pardon the pun). Butterflies, like most insects, are also usually edible and therefore valuable links in the food web.
Now, let’s take a look at dragonflies. Butterflies are pretty and all, but dragonflies are cool. Like, really cool. Both insects can fly, but dragonflies fly like tiny jet planes. I don’t just mean that they’re faster than butterflies: dragonflies clock in at about 60 miles per hour, faster than any other insect in the world. Plus, they can fly at the same speed backwards. I’d like to see a butterfly do that!
Dragonflies can fly in any direction, or just hover in place like the aircraft they are. They can see 360 degrees around themselves, which combined with their speed and maneuverability makes them obnoxious prey and lethal predators. While butterflies are flitting around sipping on nectar, dragonflies are out there taking down mosquitoes and other more annoying arthropods left and right! In fact, the whole getting-rid-of-mosquitoes thing was what made me love dragonflies so much in the first place: let’s give fire ants a buddy and add mosquitoes to the list of arthropods I’d rather not hang out with.
Last but not least, dragonflies eat butterflies. Case closed: dragonflies for the win!
Now that we’ve addressed what makes dragonflies the best, it’s only fair that we take a look at some of their weaknesses. For one, dragonfly nymphs live underwater for the first year or so of their lives before trading their gills for two pairs of sick wings, but they only live for a few weeks in their adult form. The epic transformation comes with a heavy price as well: the process of an adult dragonfly shedding its nymph exoskeleton upon exiting the water for the first time is very time consuming, and the dragonfly is hardly able to move at all during its transition. This vulnerable position, combined with hungry predators like spiders, ants and birds in the vicinity, results in a very high mortality rate for budding dragonflies.
This brings me to the one area besides wing aesthetics in which butterflies score above dragonflies: metamorphosis. Butterflies undergo “complete” metamorphosis, transitioning from eggs to larvae to pupae to adults. Dragonflies, on the other hand, undergo “incomplete” metamorphosis, which means they transform directly from larvae to adults and skip over the pupa stage altogether. Perhaps if these speedy insects slowed down for a minute to transform safely into their adult forms inside the protection of a chrysalis, they would have greater odds of living long enough to use their magnificent wings.
The more I learn about dragonflies, the more I love to watch their cool abilities in action whenever I come across one. Although I haven’t seen as many in recent years, there used to be a ton of big blue and green dragonflies in my front yard. Obviously I never snagged any out of the air like fireflies, but I counted myself lucky whenever one landed close enough for me to admire or at least get a picture.
Do you prefer dragonflies, or butterflies? This post may give the impression that I hate butterflies, but I really don’t. I think they’re beautiful, and I will do some butterfly posts in the future to highlight their contributions to the environment and human pleasure. However, I feel like dragonflies get overshadowed by butterflies a lot, so I wanted to shed a little light on how awesome these swift mosquito-hunters are.
In the end, both insects were masterfully crafted by an awesome God who loves arthropods even more than I do, and neither one should be taken for granted.