Dragonflies are incredible flying insects, but they may be badly crippled, if not mortally injured, if one of their wings becomes broken. If you find an injured dragonfly, is there anything you can do for it? Is it possible to nurse it back to health? Read on as we discuss how to help a dragonfly with a broken wing.
What You'll Learn Today
Can a Dragonfly Fly With a Broken Wing?
Most dragonflies will not be able to fly if one or more of their wings are broken. That said, it may depend on the type of dragonfly and how bad the wing damage is.
Larger dragonflies with just a small broken area on one of their wings may still be able to fly. If a dragonfly is nipped by a bird, for example, and loses a piece of a wing in its escape, it may still be able to fly if the rest of its wings and its body are undamaged.
Even if a dragonfly can still fly after sustaining a broken wing, its flight capabilities will have diminished. It will likely not be able to fly as fast or be as in control of its flight pattern as it was before the injury; it will, in essence, be a handicapped insect for the rest of its life.
Can You Help a Dragonfly With a Broken Wing?
Insect wings generally don’t heal, at least not well. If you have found a dragonfly with a broken wing, you may be able to take care of it and make it comfortable for a few days, but you will not be able to help it recover.
There are times when the kindest thing you can do is put the dragonfly out of its misery. One way to do this humanely is to put it in the freezer; the cold temperatures will not cause it any pain or discomfort, but will simply put it to sleep and allow it to die peacefully.
That said, if you suspect the dragonfly is young or would be capable of regaining some of its strength with a little care, there are things you can do to nurse it back to health. We’ll talk about these things in the following section.
How Do You Take Care of an Injured Dragonfly?
If you decide to try and care for an injured dragonfly, keep in mind that the insect may die even if you give it the best possible care.
Dragonflies are difficult to nurse and there is not a whole lot you can do for them; whether or not they recover enough to release will depend on how badly they are injured and how well they respond to your care.
Step 1: Bring It Home
The first thing to do when you find an injured dragonfly is to pick it up and take it to a safe spot, such as your house. If the dragonfly is only minorly injured it may put up a fight and try to get away; if not, it probably won’t offer much resistance.
When you bring it inside, you’ll want to put it in a container lined with plant matter or strips of paper. Make sure there is a little dish of water inside the container so it can take sips as necessary.
Keep the container out of reach of any pets or curious children. You can choose to keep it outside or inside, but it will be safer in the more controlled environment of your house.
Check on the dragonfly frequently to see how it is doing.
Step 2: Keep It Warm
Dragonflies do best in warm weather; when they are cool, they don’t move as well and their metabolism slows down. They will not be able to recover their strength as quickly if the environment is too cool for them.
At the same time, you don’t want to keep it too hot either. Placing it near an oven or attempting to dry its damaged wings with a hairdryer will subject the dragonfly to heat extremes that its body will not be able to tolerate.
If you need to dry the insect’s wings, gently blow on them a few times and set the dragonfly’s container in a warm spot of your house, such as at the top of a bookshelf or near a light source.
Step 2: Feed It
The best way to help a dragonfly recover its strength is to feed it. If your dragonfly is going without food, it will quickly become weaker as it will not be receiving the necessary nutrients to heal from its injuries.
Dragonflies eat insects, especially small flying insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and even house flies. That said, they are not picky; any small insects you can collect will most likely be gobbled up quickly by a hungry injured dragonfly.
Collect live insects and place them in the dragonfly’s container. Dragonflies eat a lot of food; large, healthy species will eat up to 100 mosquitoes in a single day, though injured or smaller species may not need quite so much.
Feed the dragonfly several times a day, or put several insects in its container at once and watch to see how quickly the dragonfly eats them all. If the dragonfly devours all the food quickly, you may need to give it more; if it doesn’t seem interested in eating or eats very slowly, you can probably get away with feeding it fewer insects at a time.
How to Tell if a Dragonfly is Dying?
After a few days of care, you will probably notice some change in the dragonfly’s behavior; either it will look and act like it is getting stronger, or it will appear weaker and more sluggish.
If the dragonfly is getting stronger, you may be able to release it back into the wild after a few days; if possible, allow it to practice flying in a controlled environment to see if it will be able to survive and move around on its own.
If, on the other hand, you suspect the dragonfly is getting weaker, you may decide that it’s best to humanely kill the insect.
So, what are the signs to look for? You don’t want to kill a dragonfly that could still recover, so how do you determine if the dragonfly is really dying?
- It won’t eat or drink: If you are providing the dragonfly with water and plenty of insects and it doesn’t appear interested in any of them, it may be nearing the end of its life. Be sure and provide it with as many different kinds of insects as you can, and if there are some it eats better than others, feed more of these; but if it won’t eat any of them, it won’t be able to survive long.
- It is sluggish and inactive: If the dragonfly initially flapped around, buzzed its wings, or tried to get away from you, but has since stopped these behaviors, it may simply be getting used to you; but more than likely, it is approaching death. Place the dragonfly in a warmer environment and see if its behavior becomes more lively; if not, it will probably be dying soon.
- It appears weaker: If you get a general sense that the dragonfly has grown weaker, it is probably getting ready to die. Signs of weakness may include having no strength to hold onto your finger or any of the materials inside its container; folding its legs under its body; laying on its side or back; and refusing to move even when you prompt it to.
Check out this video for a good visual on the behaviors of a dying dragonfly.
If you find a dragonfly that has a broken wing, you may be able to care for it and nurse it back to health if it is not too badly injured. That said, you will not be able to repair the broken wing, as insect wings don’t heal.