Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and damselflies are the most fascinating and beautiful of insects that can be found at garden ponds. Here is some information about how to tell the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly, and how to maximise the chance of them visiting your garden pond.


Damselflies and dragonflies are both members of the Odonata insect family, sharing some similarities but also having distinct differences. The main differences between damselflies and dragonflies include: 

- Body shape: Damselflies have slender bodies, while dragonflies have bulkier, more robust bodies. 

- Wing position: When at rest, damselflies hold their wings along their body, while dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to their body. 

- Eye position: Damselflies have eyes that are set widely apart on their head, while dragonflies have eyes that are closer together and often touch at the top of the head. 

- Flight style: Damselflies generally have a fluttery flight style, while dragonflies have a more powerful, direct flight style. 


To attract damselflies and dragonflies to a garden pond, there are several things you can do: 

- Provide a shallow area: Odonata larvae (also called nymphs) require shallow water to live and develop. Make sure that at least part of your pond is less than 30cm deep. 

- Provide perches: Odonata insects like to have places to land and rest near the water's edge. You can add rocks, logs, or other features that stick out of the water to provide perching spots. 

- Plant vegetation: Odonata larvae use vegetation for shelter and hunting. You can plant British native aquatic plants such as water lilies, hornwort, and water crowfoot to provide cover and food (such as algae). 

- Provide sunny areas: Odonata insects prefer sunny areas for feeding and mating. Make sure that your pond has open areas that get plenty of sunlight throughout the day. 


To make a pond a good habitat for damselflies and dragonflies, you should: 

- Avoid using chemicals: Many pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to aquatic life. Try to avoid using these chemicals near your pond. 

- Maintain water quality: Keep the water in your pond clean and clear. This can be achieved through regular water changes and using a pond filter. 

- Provide a variety of habitats: Different species of Odonata prefer different types of habitats. Try to create a diverse environment with different water depths, vegetation types, and flowing or still water areas. 

- Avoid introducing non-native species: Non-native aquatic plants or animals can disrupt the ecosystem and harm native species.


 Some British native aquatic plants that are good for attracting damselflies and dragonflies include:

 - Water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) 

- Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) 

- Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) 

- Water soldier (Stratiotes aloides) 

- Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) 

- Water crowfoot (Ranunculus spp.) 

IMAGE -  Wolfgang Hasselmann / Unsplash