Dragonflies are fascinating insects to observe in the garden. Not only are they beautiful with their bright colors and iridescent wings, but they are also important indicators of a healthy ecosystem and play a crucial role in controlling the populations of other insects.
Where to find them
Dragonflies are found worldwide except in Arctic environments. They are especially abundant in areas with abundant water sources, as they need water to lay their eggs and for their larvae to live in.
In temperate regions, dragonflies are most abundant in the summer and fall, when their populations are at their peak. In tropical regions, dragonflies can be found year-round, with a higher diversity of species and populations.
The specific species of dragonflies that are found in a particular region depend on a variety of factors, such as climate, water availability, and vegetation. For example, in North America, the eastern part of the continent has a higher diversity of dragonfly species compared to the western part due to differences in climate and water availability.
Dragonflies are insects that belong to the order Odonata, which also includes damselflies. They are characterized by their long, slender bodies and large, translucent wings that are often brightly colored. They are fast and agile fliers and are known for their aerial acrobatics.
Dragonflies have large, compound eyes that cover most of their heads and give them excellent vision. They also have long, slender, and strong legs that they use to catch prey in flight. Dragonflies are voracious predators and feed on other insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, and smaller dragonflies.
Dragonflies undergo a complete metamorphosis, laying eggs in or near water and hatching into aquatic larvae. The larvae live in the water and feed on small aquatic animals, such as tadpoles and small fish. After several molts, the larvae crawl out of the water and transform into adult dragonflies.
Dragonflies play an important role in many ecosystems, serving as predators of other insects and as food for birds, bats, and other predators. They are also important indicators of the health of aquatic habitats, as their presence indicates that the water is clean and unpolluted.
The life cycle of a dragonfly can be divided into four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Egg: Female dragonflies lay their eggs in or near water, usually in aquatic vegetation or on the water's surface. The eggs usually hatch within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the species and environmental conditions.
Larva: The hatching larvae are aquatic and are called "nymphs." They live in the water and feed on small aquatic animals, such as tadpoles, insects, and small fish. They undergo several molts as they grow, and their appearance changes dramatically with each molt.
Pupa: After several molts, the nymphs crawl out of the water and transform into pupae. The pupal stage lasts several days to several weeks, depending on the species and environmental conditions. During this stage, the dragonfly's body undergoes major changes as it transforms from a water-dwelling nymph into an adult.
Adult: The adult dragonfly emerges from the pupal case and begins to mate and lay eggs. Adults feed on other insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, and smaller dragonflies. They are strong fliers and are known for their aerial acrobatics. The adult stage of the dragonfly's life cycle usually lasts several weeks to several months, depending on the species and environmental conditions.
Why a Beneficial Insect?
Dragonflies are considered beneficial insects for several reasons:
Control of other insects: Dragonflies are voracious predators and feed on various other insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, and smaller dragonflies. By feeding on these insects, they help to control their populations and prevent them from becoming pests.
Indicator of healthy ecosystems: The presence of dragonflies in an ecosystem indicates a healthy environment. They are sensitive to changes in water quality and availability, and their populations can decline quickly if the environment becomes polluted or degraded.
Food for other animals: Dragonflies are an important food source for a variety of animals, such as birds, bats, and other predators. By providing food for these animals, dragonflies play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
Biodiversity: Dragonflies are an important part of the biodiversity of an ecosystem. They play a role in the food web, provide habitats for other animals, and help maintain the balance of the ecosystem. By preserving dragonfly populations, we can help preserve the overall biodiversity of the environment.
Aesthetic value: Dragonflies are beautiful and fascinating insects that are a joy to observe. They add color and movement to gardens, parks, and other natural areas and provide a source of entertainment and inspiration for people of all ages.
Attract this Beneficial Insect to your Garden
Here are some tips to attract dragonflies to your garden:
Provide a water source: Dragonflies need water to lay their eggs and for their larvae to live in, so provide a shallow, still water source like a pond, bird bath, or a small fountain.
Offer hiding spots: Dragonflies like to rest and hide in vegetation near their water source. So, provide shrubs, tall grasses, or other vegetation around your water source to attract them.
Grow native plants: Dragonflies are attracted to native plants, so consider planting wildflowers, grasses, and other native plants in your garden.
Avoid using pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to dragonflies, so avoid using them in your garden. Instead, encourage natural predators like birds and ladybugs to control pests.
Provide perches: Dragonflies like to rest and sun themselves, so provide flat stones or other surfaces to perch on.
By following these tips, you can create a welcoming environment for dragonflies in your garden and enjoy watching these fascinating insects as they hunt and mate.
Yevhenii Lukashuk, Shutterstock
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