Dragonflies have always captured my imagination since I was a child. I used to lay down on my back in the grass in the early evening and watch them flit around the sky, darting back and forth. I can even remember a few times when a dragonfly larva blessed the pond at my parents’ house. I’d watch them crawl out of the water and hatch out into adult dragonflies, leaving behind an empty shell that was so interesting to a young person. Learning how to attract dragonflies to my garden has been a high priority for me as an adult.
While I remember the dragonflies, I don’t remember any mosquitoes bothering me. And there may be good reason for that! A single adult dragonfly can eat anywhere from 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes in a single day. And not just that, but their larvae prey on mosquito larvae as well. Your dragonflies kill mosquitoes at nearly every stage of life!
Water is needed to attract dragonflies
Attracting dragonflies to your garden can be a little bit tricky. They take to the skies each day to find their food, meaning they don’t really need your garden for much of anything. You can plant flowers that will attract pollinators which will, in turn, attract dragonflies that eat them, but your best bet for bringing dragonflies to you is through a small pond.
Dragonflies require water to reproduce. They lay their eggs in bodies of water, where the larva then grow up and prey on small insects and animals that live in the pond. You don’t need a huge pond to attract dragonflies, but one at least two feet deep is ideal. Some have been able to breed dragonflies just in plastic tubs above ground.
Add water plants to attract dragonflies
A bucket of water by itself probably won’t attract dragonflies though. For reproduction, they look for natural bodies of water. They’ll want their egg-laying location to have lots of plants for their nymphs to climb and hide under. Lots of aquatic plants are the name of the game – plants like baby pondweed, fanwort, eelgrass, and sago pondweed are all winners for dragonflies. Lilies and lotuses that have floating leaves offer a place for your new dragonfly friends to land and lay their eggs.
Dragonflies also like stones that they can land on. Lining your small dragonfly pond with flat flagstones gives them a place to land and deposit their eggs. If they can’t land safely near the water, they won’t leave their eggs!
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Create an ideal habitat for baby dragonflies
Like adult dragonflies, the nymphs are carnivores. They won’t eat plants but will gladly go after just about any kind of aquatic creature that they can realistically catch. They are known to eat mosquito larvae, water beetles, worms, and even larger catches like small fish and tadpoles. Making sure that your dragonfly pond is stocked with plenty of little things for the nymphs to eat is a key component. Avoid adding larger fish. Small fish can help control mosquito populations as well.
They also need hiding places. This is why adding water plants to your pond is so important. They will hide among the thick plants growing inside of your pond, helping them avoid predators.
Avoiding a mosquito takeover
Here’s the reality of creating a dragonfly pond: the mosquitoes will probably find it before the dragonflies do. But that’s ok! You can add a pump to your little pond to ensure that the water is moving and debris is being skimmed from the top of the water. Mosquito eggs float, so if they can be easily skimmed off, that will help stymie their populations while the dragonflies slowly find your pond.
Help dragonflies avoid predators
If the goal is to keep dragonfly populations high around your property to reduce mosquito pressure, making sure that as few dragonflies as possible get eaten is key. What kinds of animals eat dragonflies?
- Some carnivorous flies
There isn’t a lot you can do about the predation of dragonflies – everything is in the food chain! To help avoid birds, you can plant lots of different shrubs, trees, and flowers in your yard in order to give dragonflies a safe place to land and rest when they aren’t darting around, looking for mosquitoes to dine on!
Young dragonflies are also eaten by water-dwelling animals. As we’ve covered already, not stocking your pond with larger fish and providing plenty of plants in which the nymphs can hide is the trick to keeping them safe.
This article originally appeared on The Garden Magazine and has been republished here with permission.
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