You may have heard about how important wetlands are for many species of animals and birds as well as our own health and safety. But what else do we know about these special places? One thing’s for sure — dragons love ’em!
Dragons fly around in search of food all day long, which means they spend most of their time near water. While looking for prey, dragonflies also enjoy resting, mating and laying eggs. They’re very territorial creatures and will often chase away other insects if there’s an intruder nearby.
If you want to attract more dragonflies into your yard, here are 7 tips to get started.
- Dragonflies like shallow water.
- Use a small pond or wetland plant
- Plant aquatic plants in your garden and let them grow.
- Let the sun shine on the surface of the water.
- Water is not necessary for attracting dragonflies, but it helps.
- Keep your ponds clean and clear so they look attractive.
- Choose Suitable Location for Your Garden.
- 1. Dragonflies like shallow water
- 2. Use a small pond or wetland plant
- 3. Plant aquatic plants in your garden and let them grow
- 4. Let the sun shine on the surface of the water
- 5. Water is not necessary for attracting dragonflies, but it helps
- 6. Keep your ponds clean and clear so they look attractive
- 7. Choose Suitable Location for Your Garden
1. Dragonflies like shallow water
This tip might sound obvious, but make sure your pond has at least one foot (30 centimeters) of depth. This will give the dragonfly enough room to land without getting its feet wet. If possible, create a pool with deeper areas where the dragonfly won’t need to touch bottom. The ideal depth is between three and five inches (7.62 and 12.7 centimeters). For maximum effect, try using two different depths to draw dragonflies toward you.
An alternative way to keep your pond from being too deep is to create multiple pools connected by short sections of shallow water called “channels.” You’ll be able to observe each individual insect landing in and out of the channels while keeping the deepest area less than 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) deep.
For best results, avoid building your pond right next to trees. Tree roots could wind up forming a network under the water that would interfere with swimming fish. Also, don’t build your pond close to shrubs because they could block sunlight needed to warm the water. And finally, avoid putting your pond over any electrical wires or pipes since this could damage the flow of electricity or waste heat through the pipe walls.
2. Use a small pond or wetland plant
There are several types of native wildflowers that naturally occur along riverbanks or damp meadows. These flowers produce nectar that attracts both large and small pollinators such as bees and butterflies. By planting these kinds of flowers throughout your yard, you can help encourage dragonflies to visit. Be aware that some varieties of wildflower attract mosquitoes, however, so choose wisely.
In addition to providing plenty of blooms, consider adding low-growing grasses or reeds near the edges of your pond. This creates hiding spots that provide shelter for adult dragonflies and egg cases for emerging larvae. It’s also good habitat for tadpoles and beneficial amphibians.
Another popular choice is floating vegetation known as duckweed. Duckweeds grow underwater and pop up when nutrients become scarce. Since dragonflies usually feed on tiny insects, they tend to follow ducks and geese who eat larger bugs. So by creating a little island of duckweed in your pond, you’ll increase the chances of catching someone hungry.
Lastly, add lots of tree branches to your pond or wetland. Many dragonflies find shade appealing, especially during hot summer days. As a bonus, the leaves on trees and shrubs filter out harmful ultraviolet rays from solar radiation that cause skin cancer. In fact, according to NASA researchers, every square mile of forest sequesters 2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
3. Plant aquatic plants in your garden and let them grow
Aquatic plants surely can attract dragonfliies. Some common aquatic plants include water lilies, cattails, arrowhead, rush, flag iris, elodea, pickerel weed, swamp marengo, bulrush, yellow flags and rushes. Some examples of terrestrial plants commonly used in landscaping projects designed specifically for water gardens include hostas, hydrangeas and roses.
Although there aren’t specific guidelines regarding how much plant material should go into a natural pond, experts recommend covering 50 percent of the surface with vegetation. To maximize effectiveness, mix various leafy greens together to mimic real life conditions found in nature. An added benefit of adding aquatic plants to your backyard pond is that debris deposited by rainstorms tends to settle among the thick stems rather than clumping onto the surface. When the sediment settles, oxygen levels rise. This increases the amount of dissolved oxygen available to support healthy growth of algae and provides another source of nourishment for fish.
Some additional benefits of planting aquatic plants includes:
- Providing homes for fish, crustaceans and worms
- Attracting small insects such as dragonflies, crickets, and more
- Filtering pollutants, including mercury, pesticides and herbicides
- Producing oxygen
- Removing nitrogen compounds produced by bacteria present in the decomposition process of organic matter
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by trapping atmospheric gasses inside vegetated surfaces
- Making the water cooler due to evaporation caused by transpiration
- Adding color to the water
- As far as whether or not you need permission to place aquatic plants in public waters, state laws vary. Check local regulations before starting your project.
4. Let the sun shine on the surface of the water
Most people think that direct sunlight hurts photosynthesis. However, plants actually absorb light energy better when exposed to bright sunshine. Sunlight energizes chlorophyll molecules found in green foliage, allowing plants to convert sunlight directly into chemical energy stored within sugars.
Since most dragonflies live near water, increasing the availability of sunlight in the water column becomes essential for maintaining adequate temperatures. A study conducted in 2002 showed that exposure to full spectrum lighting increased biomass production by nearly 30% compared to traditional fluorescent lamps.
However, excessive sunlight may harm young dragonflies just learning to fly. Adult dragonflies can withstand higher concentrations of UV light, making them immune to the effects of intense sunlight.
On cloudy days, diffuse sunlight works equally as well as direct sunlight. Using reflectors placed above the pond surface allows sunlight to penetrate the entire body of the water. Another option is to install skylights in the roof of your home adjacent to your pond.
5. Water is not necessary for attracting dragonflies, but it helps
It makes sense that fresh water is required to sustain living organisms. Yet, contrary to popular belief, having standing water isn’t critical for supporting dragonflies. According to research published in 2003, although mature male dragonflies require access to water to mate, females only need a suitable breeding site in which to lay their eggs.
A number of studies suggest that stagnant water doesn’t attract dragonflies as effectively as moving water does. Most of us remember watching the movie Finding Nemo when Dory taught her new friend Marlin how to swim. Although she didn’t say anything explicitly, her actions were probably communicating something similar to the following message: “Don’t sit still!”
When you see a pond filled with frogs sitting motionless on logs, it’s easy to assume that no one is feeding them. On the other hand, if you notice a group of frogs jumping across the lake, then it stands to reason that someone must be throwing bread crumbs to them.
Whether or not you believe it, there are numerous anecdotal reports confirming the importance of movement in drawing in dragonflies. At least part of the explanation comes down to physics. Like everyone else on Earth, dragonflies breathe air containing approximately 21% oxygen content. Their bodies contain hundreds of thousands of microscopic blood vessels running throughout their exoskeleton and internal organs.
With the exception of flying squirrels, all vertebrates depend almost entirely upon diffusion of gases and liquids through membranes to transport materials into cells. The greater the distance traveled, the lower the concentration of O2 reaches. Therefore, transporting a high percentage of oxygen to tissues requires relatively slow diffusion rates.
Because of this property, the rate at which oxygen travels through liquid is considerably slower than the speed at which it circulates through air. Consequently, the amount of O2 delivered to tissue depends largely upon the velocity of convection currents surrounding the membrane surface. Any disruption in the current reduces overall efficiency.
So why bother trying to move water through a damper surface? Because dragonflies are capable of producing powerful suction forces to pull themselves along. Whether pulling forward by flapping wings or propelling backward by beating paddle-like appendages located behind their abdomens, the basic mechanism involves generating negative pressure beneath the body and positive pressure ahead.
These opposing pressures work together to propel the insect forward against the resisting force of fluid friction. The faster the water moves, the stronger the drag force exerted on the creature.
6. Keep your ponds clean and clear so they look attractive
Keeping your pond free of detritus prevents biological filtration systems created by microorganisms responsible for breaking down decaying organic matter from functioning properly. Without proper aeration, the bacterial colonies associated with these processes cannot thrive and eventually die off. Bacteria play a central role in recycling nutrients back into the soil after they’ve been consumed by plants.
7. Choose Suitable Location for Your Garden
According to entomologists, dragonflies tend to hang out in shallow waters close to shoreline habitats. Therefore, if you want to attract them, you’ll need to locate your garden accordingly. Ideally, you should have a pond or lake nearby. Water features give these insects something solid to cling to while hunting for dinner.
Additionally, you can build raised beds and install fences to separate them from busy roads and houses. Or maybe you’d like to set aside part of your property as a wildlife sanctuary. Whatever area you select, remember that dragonflies hate shade.