Attracting Dragonflies to your Garden
To attract Dragonflies and Damselflies to your garden the main thing you need is a pond. This should have clean, unpolluted water and shallow margins. It needs to be in a sunny location and sheltered as far as possible from strong winds. If the southern hawker dragonfly is in the vicinity, it may be attracted to rotting logs by the edge of a pond as a place to lay its eggs.
by Linda Beckett
The aquatic vegetation should be varied, including submerged plants like pondweeds and crowfoots and floating-leaved plants like water-lilies and frogbit. Around the margins, species like brooklime and water forget-me-not are useful, as are taller emergent plants like flowering rush and water mint. Ideally, all the plants should be native species. The Natural England leaflet Garden ponds and boggy areas: havens for wildlife has more detailed recommendations on water plants.
Around the pond, it’s best to have a mixture of short and long grasses close by, with shrubs and then trees a little further away. These surroundings are very important as dragonflies will feed and mate over the grassy edges of your pond, in nearby scrub or along hedges. In spells of rain and strong winds they may seek temporary shelter among tall grasses or in trees and bushes; there, they can also roost and hide from predators.
Things to Avoid
• Water pollution - many herbicidal sprays can be very harmful, so take great care to avoid even small quantities reaching the pond from wind drift.
• Water enrichment - tap water often contains high levels of nitrates. If possible, use rainwater to top up your pond. Divert it from gutters directly to your pond or to water butts. Take care not to let fertilisers from your lawn run off into the pond.
• Undue shading of both the margins and the pond itself by trees and shrubs.
• Removing larvae from the water in the autumn when clearing out water weed or dead leaves from the pond: clear only one section of a pond at any one time to minimise the risk.
• Introductions: dragonflies will find their own way to your pond, if the conditions there are right. Transferring eggs or larvae from elsewhere is not a good idea. The water may be unsuitable for the particular species. You could also bring in tiny fragments of invasive alien plants. There are several species that can rapidly colonise ponds, choking them completely and making them unsuitable for almost any wildlife.
• Fish and waterbirds.
Information on this page has been taken, with kind permission, from a leaflet entitled 'Dragonflies and Damselflies in your garden', published by Natural England. You can download the latest version here.