The beauty of a dragonfly is known throughout the world and it has many different symbolisms attached to them. They’ve been compared to hummingbirds, both in beauty and their feeding habits.
Many dragonflies are skilled hunters, but other species are strictly nectar feeders. For both of these reasons, they’re revered as true blessings to any farm or garden.
They’re mostly harmless and far more beneficial than people give them credit for. If you’re an avid gardener, the chances are good that you’ll be wanting these pretty little predators gracing your doorstep.
There are about 3000 species of dragonflies, most of which live in tropical areas. They are often mistaken for damselflies.
Dragonfly goes through a three-cycle phase called the incomplete metamorphosis — egg, larva, and adult.
From egg to adult, the dragonfly life cycle can span up to five years, most of which is lived out in the nymph stage.
Dragonfly nymphs live in marshes or ponds where the waters are calm. They may remain in that stage for as long as four years.
What Do Dragonflies Eat?
A dragonfly’s diet mainly consists of flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies, moths, midges, butterflies, and even smaller dragonflies.
Where Do Dragonflies Live?
Dragonflies are found all over the world except the continent of Antarctica.
They spend most of their lives in the water as a nymph, after which they mature into adult stage which lasts for approximately two months.
A Harbinger of Help
A dragonfly, scientifically known as Anisoptera, is generally found around watery areas and is known for its sparkling wings and beautiful colors.
These insects are often labeled under the category of “good bugs”, much like spiders, ladybugs and praying mantises.
Any one of these bugs is a great boon to any garden, as they take care of unwanted pests hoping to make a meal of your produce.
Dragonflies Through the Ages
These amazing little critters have been around since the days when insects ruled the earth in the Silurian age, where the higher concentration of oxygen in the air caused some species to grow as big as bald eagles.
Thankfully, they’ve shrunk since their glory days and now mostly reach a max wingspan of about seven inches across.
They start their lives as nymphs hatching from tiny eggs and living in the water for about five years before maturing into adults and leaving the water for good.
As mentioned earlier, the dragonfly lifespan as adults is only for a few months and they live fast, eating everything in sight and reproducing quickly.
Dragonflies come from the Odonata order in the animal kingdom, sharing their line with their cousin, the Damselfly.
They’re capable of amazing feats of aerobatics, capable of flying backward as well as forward, stopping on a dime, and possessing incredible eyesight.
Dragonfly Benefits to Your Garden
Here’s where the interest in these little bugs needs to grow.
We’re sure you’ve lamented about the annoyance of mosquitoes in the past. If you hate these little annoyances, then you should by all accounts adore dragonflies.
Mosquitos are the dragonfly’s favorite food. And since mosquitoes are typically found near stagnant water, this is where you’ll find dragonflies most commonly.
Gnats, aphids, midges, grasshoppers, flies, you name it, and the dragonfly will at least attempt to eat it. This is especially helpful since many insects they like to munch on like munching on your vegetables.
Their sharp eyes can spot even the tiniest insects crawling about in the leaves of your garden. Like a wraith in the night, they’ll swoop down and chomp it before it ever had a chance to react.
If you have a heavy enough population of dragonflies attracted to your garden, then we can almost guarantee you’ll see a dramatic decrease of harmful insects and bugs in your garden over a period of a week or so.
How to Attract Dragonflies
This is the big one. If you want to bring them in, your best hope is to have water nearby. Whether it’s a birdhouse or a small, stagnant pond, make sure you have it.
It’ll attract dragonflies by the droves, seeking a safe place to lay their eggs. And we know it goes against all instincts you might have, but resist the urge to keep the pond sparkling clean and spotless.
Remember, dragonflies will commonly be found in swampy areas with lots of foliage. This creates the best leaf cover to hide their eggs in.
Try to leave at least a few leaves at the bottom of the pool or water container and some foliage draped over the water for them.
You can also dig some bamboo stakes down into the ground to give them little rest stops.
You’d also be well-advised to look for aquatic plants to place in and around the pond or pool for better attraction.
No Pond? No REAL Problem
The chances are good you probably don’t have a pond or else can’t afford one. And we don’t blame you; they’re a pricey investment.
But that’s not a real issue since dragonflies can travel great distances. If you live less than a mile from any sort of water source, be it a lake or a pond or a small river, you’ll likely see a few dragonflies.
So how do you attract them to you? Simple. Just create a smaller, more manageable water source. Get a rain barrel and fill it with water in the back of the yard, for example.
As long as there’s a decent depth, it’s sure to attract the little bugs to your yard. Therefore, birdbaths aren’t going to work as well.
Yes, with an added water source, you’re going to get quite a few extra mosquitoes.
These classic little irritants also rely on water for breeding, so be prepared for this added consequence.
The good thing here though is that if you’re attracting mosquitoes, it’s only a matter of time before you attract your true prey — the coveted dragonfly. So be patient and invest in a natural bug repellent until then.
How to Protect Dragonflies
You’ve just spotted your first dragonfly alighting on your water source! Hurray! Now that you’ve accomplished your goal, you have to protect them.
Firstly, make sure that the water source you’ve created stays at a certain depth, creating a safe haven for their eggs. You don’t want it to get too shallow.
Secondly, and this one is most important, never use insecticides. Dragonflies are resilient, but now they’re facing a true danger — humans ignorantly using insecticides to deal with pest problems faster.
This hurts the dragonflies as well, damaging their numbers drastically. Don’t use them and try to advocate that people near you ignore them as well.
A Precious Treasure
Of the 307 species of American dragonflies, many experts agree that roughly 15% of them are critically endangered. Many of these are the species that dwell in small streams and ponds specifically as their ordained habitats.
Unfortunately, with construction and agriculture, we’ve caused these habitats to shrink or even completely disappear, thus threatening the stability of the species.
We can protect them, but it does take a lot of effort, mostly in working to enact federal protection for their delicate habitats, which support any number of valuable creatures alongside them.
These are some of nature’s best natural insecticides. We cannot afford to lose them. Well, unless you don’t mind getting chewed to death by ravenous mosquitoes every year. We’re willing to bet that won’t be a popular idea.
Dragonflies are some of the most beneficial animals we have readily available to assist us in our agricultural needs.
It’s for this reason that we need to devote so much energy to their protection and awareness. They do more for us than many of us would ever realize.