blue dragonfly

One Dragonfly Can Eat 100+ Mosquitoes Daily. Here’s How To Attract Them

Dragonflies have always captured my imagination since I was a child. I used to lay down on my back in the grass in the early evening and watch them flit around the sky, darting back and forth. I can even remember a few times when a dragonfly larva blessed the pond at my parents’ house. I’d watch them crawl out of the water and hatch out into adult dragonflies, leaving behind an empty shell that was so interesting to a young person. Learning how to attract dragonflies to my garden has been a high priority for me as an adult.

While I remember the dragonflies, I don’t remember any mosquitoes bothering me. And there may be good reason for that! A single adult dragonfly can eat anywhere from 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes in a single day. And not just that, but their larvae prey on mosquito larvae as well. Your dragonflies kill mosquitoes at nearly every stage of life!

Create a pond or water feature

water lilies
credit: unsplash

Attracting dragonflies to your garden can be a little bit tricky. They take to the skies each day to find their food, meaning they don’t really need your garden for much of anything. You can plant flowers that will attract pollinators which will, in turn, attract dragonflies that eat them, but your best bet for bringing dragonflies to you is through a small pond.

Dragonflies require water to reproduce. They lay their eggs in bodies of water, where the larva then grow up and prey on small insects and animals that live in the pond. You don’t need a huge pond to attract dragonflies, but one at least two feet deep is ideal. Some have been able to breed dragonflies just in plastic tubs above ground.

Add water plants to attract dragonflies

water lily
Credit: Unsplash

A bucket of water by itself probably won’t attract dragonflies though. For reproduction, they look for natural bodies of water. They’ll want their egg-laying location to have lots of plants for their nymphs to climb and hide under. Lots of aquatic plants are the name of the game – plants like baby pondweed, fanwort, eelgrass, and sago pondweed are all winners for dragonflies. Lilies and lotuses that have floating leaves offer a place for your new dragonfly friends to land and lay their eggs.

Dragonflies also like stones that they can land on. Lining your small dragonfly pond with flat flagstones gives them a place to land and deposit their eggs. If they can’t land safely near the water, they won’t leave their eggs!

Create an ideal habitat for baby dragonflies

leaves in water
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Like adult dragonflies, the nymphs are carnivores. They won’t eat plants but will gladly go after just about any kind of aquatic creature that they can realistically catch. They are known to eat mosquito larvae, water beetles, worms, and even larger catches like small fish and tadpoles. Making sure that your dragonfly pond is stocked with plenty of little things for the nymphs to eat is a key component. Avoid adding larger fish. Small fish can help control mosquito populations as well.

They also need hiding places. This is why adding water plants to your pond is so important. They will hide among the thick plants growing inside of your pond, helping them avoid predators.

Avoiding a mosquito takeover

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Creating a dragonfly-friendly pond poses the challenge of initially attracting mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water, before dragonflies establish themselves as primary inhabitants. Thoughtful planning can prevent your pond from becoming a mosquito haven and make it a welcoming environment for dragonflies, natural mosquito predators.

Effective strategies include keeping the water moving with a pump to deter mosquitoes, using skimming mechanisms to remove mosquito eggs and larvae, and managing pond vegetation to avoid overly dense growth that provides hiding spots for mosquito larvae. Encouraging dragonflies early by creating an ideal habitat with plenty of perching spots and diverse vegetation also helps control mosquitoes naturally.

If mosquito populations remain stubborn, consider environmentally safe larvicidal products containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), which target mosquito larvae without harming other wildlife. By implementing these strategies, you can manage your pond to avoid a mosquito takeover while creating an inviting habitat for dragonflies. This balanced approach ensures your water feature enhances your property’s ecosystem, providing a beautiful and natural method for controlling mosquitoes and enjoying the benefits of having dragonflies as part of your garden wildlife.

Help dragonflies avoid predators

bluebird landing
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To maintain high dragonfly populations and reduce mosquito pressure, minimizing dragonfly predation is essential. Birds, spiders, bats, mantids, and some carnivorous flies prey on dragonflies. While you can’t entirely prevent this natural predation, you can help by planting a variety of shrubs, trees, and flowers to give dragonflies safe places to rest when they’re not hunting mosquitoes.

Young dragonflies, or nymphs, are also vulnerable to water-dwelling predators. To protect them, avoid stocking your pond with larger fish and provide ample aquatic plants for the nymphs to hide. These steps will help ensure a thriving dragonfly population, enhancing their role in controlling mosquitoes around your property.

Offer Perching Spots

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Offering perching spots is crucial for attracting dragonflies, as these insects spend a significant amount of time resting or waiting for prey and mates. Using a variety of materials, such as bamboo stakes, metal rods, natural branches, and even rebar, can create effective perching spots. These materials should be tall enough to stand out above surrounding vegetation and stable enough to support dragonflies. Including perches at different heights, ranging from 2 to 6 feet above the ground or water, allows dragonflies to choose their preferred vantage points, catering to different species with varying habits.

Positioning perching spots around the edges of ponds or water features, and within nearby vegetation, maximizes their effectiveness. Placing some perches in sunny areas helps dragonflies warm up, while shaded spots offer relief during hot days. Creating clusters of perches can cater to both solitary and group-living dragonflies and add visual appeal to your garden. Maintaining these perches by keeping them clear of overgrown vegetation and ensuring their stability enhances their usefulness. Incorporating natural features like tall grasses, reeds, and shrubs provides additional perching options and ecological benefits, creating an inviting environment for dragonflies.

Incorporate a Variety of Habitats

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Incorporating a variety of habitats within your property is essential for attracting and supporting a diverse population of dragonflies, as different species have unique habitat preferences. Creating a mosaic of interconnected habitats offers the best chance of meeting the needs of various dragonfly species throughout their life cycles. Open water areas are vital for breeding and hunting, while submerged vegetation like elodea or waterweed provides essential hiding spots for larvae and contributes oxygen to the water. Floating plants such as lily pads offer perching spots and platforms for egg-laying, and woodland areas serve as critical refuges and hunting grounds, providing protection and feeding opportunities.

Meadow or grassland areas near water bodies create rich environments for the insects dragonflies prey upon, offering perching and roosting sites. Edge habitats, the transitional zones between different types of environments, support high biodiversity, providing abundant opportunities for feeding, mating, and sheltering. By integrating these varied habitats into your property, you create a rich and complex environment that supports a wide range of dragonfly species, fulfilling their lifecycle requirements and promoting a sustainable ecosystem. This approach not only benefits dragonflies but also enhances the overall biodiversity and health of your garden, creating a more vibrant and ecologically balanced environment.

Avoid Using Pesticides

roundup glyphosate
Credit: Flickr / jeepersmedia

Avoiding the use of chemical pesticides is crucial in creating a habitat that is inviting to dragonflies, as these substances can be harmful not only to the dragonflies themselves but also to the wide variety of prey they feed on. When pesticides are used in a garden or near a water feature, they can eliminate the very insects that dragonflies depend on for food, thereby reducing the dragonfly population. Furthermore, the chemicals can directly poison dragonflies, particularly their aquatic nymph stages, which are highly sensitive to changes in water quality.

To foster a dragonfly-friendly environment, it’s beneficial to embrace natural pest control strategies that don’t rely on chemical interventions. This approach involves encouraging the presence of natural predators that will help control pest populations. For example, birds, bats, frogs, and other beneficial insects can play a significant role in keeping pests at bay, and their presence contributes to a balanced ecosystem that supports the well-being of dragonflies.

Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.