The only two species of dragonflies protected in the UK are the Norfolk hawker and the southern damselfly. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, it is illegal to kill either of these species. Neither is very likely to occur in gardens.
The Dragonfly Recording Network (DRN) welcomes all dragonfly records, including those from garden ponds. It is very helpful to record dragonfly occurrences at all water bodies and garden records can be very useful in tracking the arrival of any new species or the spread of established species. Even the absence of species from gardens can be important as it may provide an early signal of changes in their distribution. DRN County and Regional recorders would be delighted to hear from you. Their details are available via the British Dragonfly Society.
There are legends and myths about dragonflies in most parts of the world.
In eastern countries, dragonflies were commonly believed to carry the spirits of the human dead to heaven. In the west, myths are both more prosaic and less reverential. For example, a possible explanation for the name “horse stinger” is that hawker dragonflies were often seen flying round horses in fields, feeding on flies. Occasionally, a fly would irritate a horse enough to make it skip about. People seeing this assumed that the horse had been stung by a dragonfly, being big and obvious, rather than bitten by something unseen. In reality, even large dragonflies cannot break human skin, let alone that of a horse.
An old name for damselflies was ‘Devil’s Darning Needles’. It was said that if you went to sleep by a stream on a summer’s day, damselflies would use their long, thin bodies to sew your eyelids shut!
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.
Dragonflies and Damselflies