When it comes to dragonflies and the garden pond, there are a few things you need to know.
The first is that these insects will usually come themselves if you provide the environment they want for breeding and living.
And for the record – you do want this insect in your garden.
What Do They Eat?
The adult isn’t fussy. They’ll eat just about any flying insect (although they really like mosquitoes and midges) including butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies.
The larvae (that live underwater) also eat anything smaller than themselves with the largest ones even eating small fish fry. The larvae are particularly fond of bloodworms and other insect larvae such as mosquito larvae.
There is a reason this insect is called a “dragon” fly. It is a serious predator of other insects
If you capture a really big one in your hand, it might try to bite you. The good news is that it isn’t strong enough to cut your skin and it will feel like it is nibbling on you. This insect doesn’t bite humans, sting or otherwise bother us although it can scare us by zooming in close enough to pick off a mosquito or two. This is one of the really good guys (anything that likes to eat mosquitoes is good in my books).
OK – so what eats it?
Nothing smaller – that’s for sure. Mostly birds, the bigger spiders, frogs, toads and larger dragonflies eat the adults. Larger fish, frogs, toads and newts will go after the larval stages.
If you’ve ever watched them snatch a biting deerfly out of the air, you’ll have a lot of respect for this insect. While they can hover, their ability to change direction quickly is invaluable in finding food.
It is estimated that the largest species can actually hit 60km/h or 38 mph in short bursts.
They want to go this fast because the cold area species only live for a month while the tropical ones have been known to live for 6 months.
How Many Kinds are There?
Again, this is an estimate but approximately 5000 different species of dragonflies and damselflies are known to exist. Higher estimates go into the 6500 number.
The biggest dragonfly is the Australian species Petalura ingentissima and its wings are 16 cm wide (about 5-6 inches)
What is a damselfly?
It’s a kissing cousin. You can recognize them this way:
- Damselfly eyes are separated on either side of their head while dragonfly eyes almost or do touch on the top of the head.
- Damselflies hold their wings above their abdomen while resting while dragonflies usually spread theirs.
- Damselflies are usually the smaller slim insects with similarly shaped fore and hindwings that narrow at the base. Dragonflies are larger and their wings do not narrow and are different in shape.
How Do I Encourage Them?
This insect starts life in water and still water is a good bet rather than moving streams. They want some protection for laying eggs and larvae growth.
If you create ledges in your pond for plants such as reeds and sedges – plants with lots of stems for egg laying and protection from fish, you’ll have good luck.
Shallow water with no big fish is ideal or having tons of vegetation such as floating oxygenators for the protection of both larvae and fish fry also works well.