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Dragonflies arrived in the garden more than 300 million years ago-a mere 70 million years before the earliest known dinosaur. With expert hunting skills (they are insect eating machines) and the ability to fly at speeds over 30 mph, it's not surprising that their species have been able to achieve such longevity. Dragonflies live, breed, and eat around water. In recent years, human development and the resulting loss of wetlands have put 15-20% of the world's dragonfly species in danger of becoming extinct. By inviting dragonflies into your garden you can help preserve this important insect predator. They'll show you their appreciation by happily reducing your mosquito population.
There are over 6000 different species of dragonflies and damselflies worldwide, 400 of which live in North America. Like bird watchers, devoted dragonfly watchers enjoy identifying and learning about the species they're watching. Dragonflies belong to an order of insects known as Odonata, which is Greek for "tooth." There are two sub-categories (or sub-orders) of dragonfly, the Anisoptera, which are the dragonflies and the Zygoptera, the damselflies. Certain characteristics make it easy to distinguish one from another. When perched, dragonflies hold their wings straight out to the side (horizontally), while damselflies hold their wings straight back (vertically). Dragonflies have nearly round heads, while damselfly heads are slightly elongated. Lastly, most dragonflies appear large and robust. Damselflies appear smaller and more delicate.
Dragonflies are carnivorous and feed on larvae or other flying insects. Depending on the species, the lifespan of a dragonfly can be as short as six months to as long as approximately seven years. They are generally categorized into two groups:
One of the best reasons to attract dragonflies to your garden is simply to enjoy hours of entertaining insect behavior. A sturdy bench and a pair of binoculars should always be close at hand. Males defend their territory much like a male red-winged blackbird would, staking claim to an elevated perch near a pond and zooming out to chase away potential challengers. Most people are familiar with dragonfly and damselfly mating rituals, two dragonflies forming a circle or "wheel" in mid-air or in the case of damselflies, flying in tandem-one directly behind another. Much like a predatory bird, dragonflies fly over water to hunt for prey, dive-bombing it and snatching it in mid-air. With 30,000 lenses and the ability to see a full 360 degrees, it's likely that dragonflies will be watching your behavior, too!
A diverse landscape of trees, shrubs, and flowers will attract the insects to your garden that dragonflies prefer to feed on, but garden ponds will provide them with a home. Dragonflies reproduce in ponds, laying their eggs in, near, or under the pond water. They also like to hunt on or near the water. This works out well for gardeners, because they eat unwanted insects, helping to preserve the environment of a pond or garden.
If you don't already have one, creating a large pond to attract dragonflies isn't necessary. A kiddy pool or half barrel is all you need. Ideally, you pond should contain underwater plants and rocks and be a minimum of 2 ft deep. This is so dragonfly nymphs can hide from frogs, birds, predatory fish, or passing raccoons.
Plant reeds, grasses, or shrubs around the pond's perimeter to provide adult dragonflies with perches for hunting and "pond watching" and allow nymphs to crawl up out of the pond. Some species will use surrounding plants as nurseries, inserting their eggs into the more soft-stemmed plants. Dragonflies like basking in the sun, and like butterflies, they are attracted to light colored rocks. A combination of moving and still water in your pond will serve to attract the widest variety of different dragonfly species.
I was admiring the beauty of nature at Cat Island Park in Elizabethton, TN. It is a little park that has a walking trail and swings, slides and lots of picnic benches nestled among old trees. The rain began to fall, and I waited in my car. The day was hot and muggy and humid. After the rain finished, I walked down the trail and started looking for any photo opportunities, and I was glad to find this beautiful dragonfly.
This beautiful creature was taking a bath on a raindrop, and I took both video and a photo on my phone. He dipped his leg into the bright raindrop and washed his little face in the raindrop.
This action could not have taken more than two minutes of my time, and I will always remember to take photos after a rain, to capture nature enjoying the gift of a summer rainstorm.
As a pleasant surprise, while I was looking for animals and wildlife, I found this charming painted rock. An unknown individual had left this stone on the levee that keeps the Doe River from flooding the park. it had an encouraging message on it with pretty coloring. I had to include what I believe to be English Ivy coming over the levee. English Ivy is my favorite kind of ivy.
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!
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I wasn't sure these photos of this dragonfly would turn out well because of the cloudy day but decided to try and see what would happen. Glad I did because I was pleased by the wonderful results. This little guy was just hanging around on the top of the flag pole secured in one of my potted plants for about a half hour. I love the closer shot the best!
By Ann from Richland, WA
I love walking in my garden with my camera. Resting on my day lily, was this beautiful dragonfly. Anyone else besides me like dragonflies? She stayed for awhile, and let me take quite a few pictures before she flew away.
I came home and as I was walking down the driveway, I could see this huge dragonfly near the front door. Luckily, I had my camera with me and I got few shots of it before it flew away.
I didn't even realize until later, when I was looking at the pictures I had just taken in my computer, that his wing was ripped and missing a piece.
Another walk in my garden with camera in hand, looking for what will surprise me today. Look what I found perched on one of my garden stakes. He was just sitting there resting and looking around.
Snapped a photo of this dragonfly that I found sitting in our garden.
I found this rare species of dragonfly and managed to capture using my new Canon EOS 550D
This dragonfly has been visiting my peach tree for a couple of days now. I just love the picture!
I saw this little one setting on a flower pot. I just had to get the camera, and get a shot of him.
We watched this dragonfly land and leave 3 times in a few minutes. We figured he wanted his picture taken. My husband ran in and got the camera. The little guy waited for me to snap a pic and then flew away.
This interesting dragonfly was flying around my flowerbeds before landing and inviting me closer. The insect stayed still long enough for me to take many photos. I love the contrast between the green eyes and clear wings.
This little guy landed right on my fence and sat there so nicely while I took several pictures! He even let me get up really close! I love dragonflies!
This little guy let me get close enough to get this picture (and a few more)!
Perfect moments near the water. I got a picture of a dragonfly going to land on a blade of grass. It was just flying around without a care in the world.
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In a beautiful place in Auburn, CA filled with flowers and other wildlife, this dragonfly wanted to make friends.
Gotta Love those Dragonflies. (10/01/2010)
By Sue Hinely
Dragonfly taking a moment to pose for a shot. I was lucky to capture this shot. I couldn't help but laugh when I uploaded my pictures and noticed it with its head cocked to the left and looking directly at me. Looks like it is smiling and batting it's eyes for the camera.
This dragonfly has been flying around our front garden and luckily I was able to take many pictures of it. This I believe is the best photo of the bunch.
I had my camera outside to take a picture of a window that needs to be replaced, and this little guy landed right next to me and waited to have his picture taken. He didn't seem to mind when I got really close to him (or her).
By Karen Locey
I was checking my raspberries last summer and noticed this dragonfly resting on one of the bushes. It was so still I thought it had died but decided to run, get my camera, and take the picture anyway. After taking this picture it flew away! I love how the leaves of my raspberry bush show through the transparent wings of this dragonfly!
Great photo! I've tried capturing good photos of dragonflies to no avail. So, I can definitely appreciate the beauty of this one. ;-) (06/02/2010)
Jackie, thank you for the mental pic you just gave me to match the visual of the photo itself. Your description was so vivid, even a blind chick like me can enjoy it. :D (06/04/2010)
I just marvel God's creations. I'm glad you do too! The transparent wings are amazing. Thanks for sharing this. (06/08/2010)
By Lee Taylor
I was outside taking photos of my garden for my photo diary when I noticed this little guy drying out his wings sitting on the clothes line.
Caught this picture of a Dragonfly on our deck.. They really are beautiful creatures