Gardens resplendent in lush vegetation and rich foliage are usually home to many creatures – big or small, crawling or flying. They all flock to gardens because they provide shelter and are excellent food sources. Unfortunately, these garden visitors include the creepy crawlers we know as pests.
Dragonflies are good for your garden because they prey on certain pests. Their favorite meals are mosquitoes, so much so that they eat these predatory insects at all stages of life. Additionally, dragonflies are beautiful, graceful creatures that are a joy to behold flitting about in your yard.
We will talk about why dragonflies are beneficial to your garden, why you often find them swooping about in your yard, and what you can do to invite them to stay. Then, just in case all these efforts pay off, and you suddenly find yourself overwhelmed by the dragonfly colonies infesting your garden, I will give you some tips on shooing them away. Let’s begin!
How Dragonflies Benefit Your Garden
I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that the mere sight of dragonflies in your garden is already a treat. Their shimmering wings and light, colorful bodies are very amusing to observe. They like hovering over different things and darting here and there, sweeping over open areas.
Adult dragonflies generally live for only 1-2 weeks and spend much of their short lifespan mating and feeding. If you happen to see two dragonflies flying in tandem, attached and forming a circle with their arched bodies and tails – that’s their mating. Such an intriguing sight!
Dragonflies are carnivorous and love feasting on small insects, including their kind. They effectively serve as natural pest control agents in your garden and help keep plants healthy. They can eat as many as 16,000 insects each summer.
Among all the insects, their favorites are mosquitoes. Dragonflies can feast on hundreds of mosquitoes in a day, thanks to their agility, speed, and powerful eyesight. They can significantly reduce mosquito infestations in your garden and your home.
Their presence protects you from these pesky bloodsuckers, primarily since mosquitoes are known for carrying diseases like malaria.
Here are some other benefits that dragonflies offer:
Air and Water Quality Indicators
Dragonflies are an indication of good air and water quality in your garden. The dragonfly’s sensitivity to air impurities is why you rarely see dragonflies roaming around in dense cities and urban locations. They rarely tolerate air pollution, so having them around shows that you’re breathing clean, healthy air.
They also indicate poor water quality and are often used as primary bioindicators for freshwater systems.
Natural Pest Control
Dragonflies prey on practically any small insect they can get their hands on. They can swoop down on unsuspecting insects and feed while in flight. Dragonflies can help keep pesky insects at bay and protect your plants from pest infestations.
Here are some of their prey:
- House flies
- Small spiders
- Small beetles
Additionally, immature dragonflies, sometimes called nymphs, contribute their share to keeping their environment pest-free. Nymphs live in ponds or damp, muddy areas around your garden.
Incidentally, these areas are also where most pests lay their eggs. Nymphs will feed on insect eggs, especially mosquito larvae, effectively contributing to keeping your garden’s pest population down.
What Attracts Dragonflies to Your Garden
Dragonflies might be a great solution if you have a mosquito problem in your garden. You can attract these beneficial insects by providing them with a suitable habitat. Create little nooks for them and fill these with things they like.
Dragonflies love small bodies of water because they thrive on high humidity. They also prefer certain plants, so having these dotted across your garden will surely invite them in.
Here are some ideas on how to attract dragonflies to your garden:
Build a Pond
A small pond with some clear surface area will be ideal for dragonflies. This water feature would be an attractive place for them to mate and lay their eggs. Make sure the pond gets at least partial sunlight.
Include some tall, vertical plants because this is where immature dragonflies like hanging out until they finally transform into adults. Remember not to place fish in the pond since they are dragonfly predators.
Dragonflies need sunshine and warmth to get through the day. Assist them in gathering as much sunlight and heat as possible by installing flat rocks around your garden pond
These rocks will collect heat from the sun. Soon, you’ll see dragonflies sunbathing on these rocks, enjoying the warmth as they re-energize.
Don’t Forget the Water Lilies!
No pond is complete without a few water lilies dotting the surface. These flowering plants are perfect for sustaining dragonfly colonies. They are ideal spots for dragonflies looking to rest or take naps on hot days.
Their pretty flowers also attract bees and butterflies, which are dragonfly prey. Water lilies are great for preventing algae formation, too.
Maintain Wetlands or Small Marshy Areas
Maintaining marshy areas is an excellent idea for utilizing areas in your garden with poor drainage. These damp locations are perfect breeding grounds for most insects upon which dragonflies prey. These moist spots will undoubtedly attract dragonflies with the buffet-like temptations of larvae and tiny prey.
Install Dragonfly Perches
Dragonflies will appreciate perches installed around your garden where they can rest and lay in wait for their prey. Wooden sticks, new wood slabs, and fallen branches about 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall will be ideal. The sight of these colorful insects resting and basking under the sun will be your reward.
You can also provide them with perches in and around your garden pond. Choose plants that will provide shelter for dragonflies at all stages of development. For instance, nymphs will appreciate submerged plants like baby pondweed, eelgrass, or fanwort since these provide protection underwater.
Nymphs can also use these for climbing when they enter the final stage before adulthood, where they climb plant stalks and wait for their wings to develop.
Plant Their Favorite Flowers
Dragonflies will appreciate lush greenery in and around your garden. These provide rich hunting grounds and ideal resting spots for when they need to rest and recharge. However, certain plants attract dragonflies more than others.
Among the plants they love are:
- Swamp milkweed
- Black-eyed Susan
- Joe-Pye weed
- Dwarf Sagittaria
- Meadow sage
- Lotus flower
What to Do in a Dragonfly Infestation
In rare cases, when the dragonfly population in your garden is just too much to bear, you would then have to employ tactics to drive them away. Too much of a good thing can sometimes become a nuisance, which may be true for these winged pest predators. Too many flitting about among your plants instantly converts these beneficial insects to pests.
Here are some things you can do to address a dragonfly infestation:
Clear Your Garden of Any Stagnant Water
You might have unknowingly been leaving stagnant water around your garden. Bird baths, pet dishes, and any hollow space where rainwater could accumulate are ideal breeding grounds for dragonflies. Get rid of these at once, and never let stagnant water stay around for more than two days.
In this scenario, dragonflies aren’t even your biggest problem. You are also attracting mosquitoes to your garden, and everyone knows these insects are a nuisance because they sting and carry diseases.
If you rid your garden of stagnant water, you will also be deterring mosquitos. Since dragonflies feed primarily on mosquitoes, not finding any food source in your garden will send them away.
Attract Dragonfly Predators
No matter how skilled dragonflies may be as predators, they are also considered prey by animals bigger than them. Birds, for instance, regularly feed on dragonflies. They are often snatched in midair or plucked out of their perches while sunbathing.
In ponds, fish, frogs, and toads feed dragonfly eggs and nymphs.
If you find the dragonfly population in your garden overwhelming, here are some things you can do to attract their predators:
- Install bird baths: Make sure to clean them out, so the water doesn’t stagnate regularly.
- Hang bird feeders from your trees: The regular presence of birds will deter dragonflies.
- Introduce fish, toads, and frogs to your pond: These will feed on dragonfly eggs and nymphs.
If you initially built your pond to benefit dragonflies, making little tweaks that significantly change their habitat will surely drive them away. Dragonflies need ideal conditions to reproduce, and if they don’t find this in your garden, they will have no second thoughts about packing their bags and start searching for a better home.
One thing you can do is install a filtration system. This system ensures that the water inside your pond is constantly flowing. It also helps keep dragonfly reproduction rates down by regularly sweeping your pond clean of dragonfly eggs and nymphs.
You could also say goodbye to the water lilies. Dragonflies love perching on and laying their eggs on these, so depriving them of this luxury will encourage them to leave.
Take Down Perches and Rocks
Get rid of flat rocks around your pond. Take down plants you usually see dragonflies perched on, especially those around your pond. Not having lovely places to rest and soak in the sun will discourage dragonflies from hanging out in your garden.
Dragonflies are at the top tier of insect predators. With their swiftness, agility, and excellent eyesight, they can instantly swoop down on their prey. They can even consume prey while in flight.
Gardeners favor dragonflies because they help keep the pest population down, hence contributing to keeping the plants in a garden healthy and thriving. Their favorite meals are mosquitoes, and you can count on them to feast on these pests all day so you can enjoy your garden without worrying about getting stung by these bloodsuckers.
Ultimately, dragonflies are beneficial and beautiful insects worth inviting into your garden.