Dragonflies are some of the best predators to keep mosquito populations low. I’ll show you how to attract these beneficial insects to your yard. Not only do they scavenge the skies in adulthood, but they eat large numbers of mosquito larvae in their larval form in the water.
Did you know … adult dragonflies can eat up to 100, if not many more, mosquitoes per day!
These insects are not harmful, indeed they are grouped into the category of “good insects,” and they eat the “bad” insect pests.
A Little About the Dragonfly Stages
The lifespan of a dragonfly is found to consist of two distinct stages. After breeding the female dragonfly will lay her eggs on or near water or in a place that will fill with water. Once the eggs have hatched the first stage in their lifestyle can begin.
At this stage, it is an aquatic larvae, also called a ‘nymph‘. This stage will generally last between one and three years.
Once the nymph is fully grown, and the weather is right, it will complete the metamorphosis into a dragonfly by crawling out of the water up the stem of a plant. The nymph will shed its skin onto the stem of the plant and will then be a young dragonfly.
While building a backyard pond is the best way to attract dragonflies as they mate and lay their eggs in water, you can still attract dragonflies through other means. Planting flowers that attract prey for dragonflies will bring them to your garden indirectly.
Here are seven plants you can easily grow to attract dragonflies into your garden:
1. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) This is one of many native milkweeds that are a must for the butterfly, dragonfly, and pollinator enthusiast! Swamp milkweed prefers consistently moist soil, but performs well in average soil. Monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of the narrow pointed leaves.
2. Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) These hardy and easy to grow plants prefer sun, but can be very happy in partial shade.
The flower heads are either rounded or flattened clusters with masses of tiny flowers that are a magnet for dragonflies and other beneficial insects. They reseed easily so if you don’t want them to spread, you can deadhead and divide them every few years to control the growth.
3. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) The daisy-like blooms are vigorous, well-flowered and showy … beloved by generations of gardeners to provide long bloom time and excellent cut flowers. Pair with Russian Sage for low maintenance and a pretty splash of color in the garden. Attracts birds and butterflies to your yard.
4. Meadow Sage (Salvia marcus) These are tough plants that are virtually pest and disease free and ideal for hot, sunny, dry areas. Depending on the variety, the flower spikes come in shades of pink, blue, white or purple. Polliantors, butterflies, and hummingbirds love the salvia family of flowers!
5. Yarrow (Achillea) Yarrow are good ‘ol fashioned long-blooming garden staples that are extremely easy to grow. The ferny, silvery foliage is quite aromatic and the flowerheads can be dried for use in arrangements.
The flowers are available in a variety of colors (I have yellow and apricot types in my garden). An important nectar source for butterflies and other pollinators.
6. Borage (Borago officinalis) Its blue star-shaped flowers appear in summer and last until first frost. It’s a drought-tolerant, native herb that is self-seeding. Having a fresh cucumber flavor … the young spring foliage can be chopped and added to salads, yogurt and soft cheese. Yum!
7. Coneflowers (Echinacea) A perennial garden favorite, coneflowers are dependable, showy, and low maintenance. They have daisy-like flowers with a prominent raised cone and come in a variety of colors from yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, burgundy and white. Loved by butterflies and good for cutting.
Incorporating a pond into your backyard is also a good idea if you want dragonflies to return to your side of the neighborhood.
Dragonflies spend two months to several years underwater, and water is a place they will return to time and time again. If you provide water, dragonflies will come to hunt, reproduce, perch, and play.
Water-dwelling plants will help welcome dragonflies to your garden. We recently visited several botanical gardens in the Rockford, IL and Janesville, WI areas and the dragonflies were plentiful around the pond areas. A beautiful sight to see! Also, I did not spot one mosquito … even after recent heavy rains.
Here are five water-loving plants you can grow to attract more dragonflies to your yard:
1. Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) Duck-potato or arrowhead is a colony-forming, aquatic perennial. Flowers have showy, white petals and are arranged in a whorled fashion. The plant was once an important source of food for Native Americans.
2. Wild Celery (Vallisneria americana) Wild celery, a submersed water plant, is native in most of the United States, including zone 5 & 6. It’s one of the most important foods for waterfowl. Ducks especially consume the leaves, roots, tubers, and seeds of the plant.
3. Water Lily (Nymphaea) Water lilies can be grown in a tub on the patio or in ponds of any size. They grow from tubers planted in pots beneath the water and send up stems with rounded leaves and star-shaped blossoms that float on the surface. These flowers are as tough as they are beautiful.
4. Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) Horsetails are allies of ferns. The Water Horsetail is quite common in swamps and wet areas. They lack flowers and regular leaves. They contain a thick, dark green (fairly hollow) stem. The plant provides habitat for pond life and was used historically for scouring, sanding and filing because of the high silica content in the stems.
5. Pickerel Rush (Pontederia cordata) This plant has showy violet blooms. The leaves are also unique because they have a glossy finish to them. The Pickerel Rush plant can grow in water up to three feet deep. The stalks of the flowers function as a home for many beneficial insects.
Importance of Rocks for Dragonflies
You should also provide rocks around the pond, and around your garden in general, to make your yard more appealing to dragonflies. Rocks provide hiding place for dragonfly larvae as they grow and develop under water.
Dragonflies like to sun themselves, and the warmth of flat rocks provides the perfect setting. Try a mix of light and dark rocks and observe which color attracts more dragonflies to your area.
While you’re waiting for plants to grow tall enough for dragonflies to perch on, you can place sticks around your pond. This will give them somewhere to land and take a rest. You can use sticks from nearby trees, or bamboo stakes for plants and vegetables.
For more information on creating a dragonfly friendly backyard pond and garden, go to this interesting article: How To Create a Dragonfly Garden.
Fun fact: To distinguish between dragonflies and damselflies, think of an analogy to moths and butterflies.
Dragonflies rest with their wings open, like moths, and damselflies hold their wings closed together, as butterflies do.
Invite graceful dragonflies to your garden by planting some of my twelve suggested plants above. These interesting and beneficial insects are terrific helpers to keep mosquito populations low!
We hope you found this post about inviting dragonflies to your garden as mosquito control useful. Let us know your thoughts and how you make your yard dragonfly friendly by visiting our contact page …For more information on beneficial insects, be sure to check this out!
“I love to see the sunshine on the wings of the Dragonflies… there is magic in it.”
― Ama H.Vanniarachchy