The Littlest Dragons Zooming Around!
If you like spotting birds and watching their exciting acrobatics, you will absolutely love watching dragonflies. The way they wheel, zoom, change direction mid-air and flutter is truly a sight to see.
Different species of dragonflies also have distinctive markings and colours, so with practice, you'll be able to recognise one type from another, just like birds. Different species emerge at different times of year, so keep a look out no matter what month it is.
Watch out for dragonflies wherever there is water such as a pond, stream, river or lake. Australia has over 300 species of dragonflies, so you've got a pretty good chance of seeing one.
On the east coast of New South Wales and south-east Queensland, Giant Dragonflies will be emerging now - from October and November right up until January.
Giant Dragonflies have a wingspan of up to 13 cm! Click to read about them here.
Dragonflies are great to have around your garden as they are insect eating machines! Dragonflies and dragonfly larvae particularly love to eat mosquitoes and their young. Adult dragonflies also eat White Cabbage butterflies and other flying insects, which they grab in mid-air.
Don't bother to use a bug zapper outdoors as it's more likely to zap dragonflies than mosquitoes, and dragonflies will keep your mosquito numbers down for you with no trouble if you give them a chance.
Dragonflies lay their eggs on water, floating plant material or on nearby vegetation. Once hatched, the larve will spend months to years underwater, swimming, feeding and hiding in amongst submerged plants and roots.
Once they're ready, dragonfly larvae climb out of the water onto a nearby plant and begin to shed their outer skin.
If you want to attract dragonflies to your backyard, establish a pond. Click here to find out how. Take a big bottleful of water from an older pond and tip it into your new one to introduce aquatic insects. Be aware that any fish in your pond will eat dragonfly larvae swimming underwater.
Dragonflies are solar powered! As cold blooded insects, they need to absorb the warmth of the sun before they can be really active. Place some light-coloured rocks around your garden pond for dragonflies to sun themselves on, and make sure that it is not more than 30% covered by shade.
DID YOU KNOW?
Dragonflies have been around on earth for around 300 million years! They are such a specialised predator that they can even camouflage themselves whilst flying! Click here to read an article about it.
Plant aquatic plants in your pond, and border plants that are semi-submerged so that dragonfly larve can pull themselves out of the water. Avoid using chemicals or pesticides in the garden as they will end up in the pond water and make it unhealthy.
Dragonflies fly by in a Lovers Embrace
When temperatures and humidity peak, colourful Dragonflies mate and create the next generation of their incredibly successful kind. Watch closely as they skim your your backyard pond, just like their ancestors did across the world more than 300 million years ago.
At the time of the dinosaurs, the wingspan of your visiting dragonfly would have measured a scary 70 centimetres. Today, they reach from a tiny 15 mm to 13 centimetres for the endangered Giant Dragonfly.
The dating and mating season for Dragonflies lasts up to three weeks, and many species flaunt bright colours on their wings and bodies to attract a mate. Males may even become territorial and will defend their turf against any rival that tries to upstage him.
Once he has attracted a female, the male will grasp her behind the head. If you are lucky, you may see them flying by in their embrace or see them land on a perch to mate.
Later, the female will lay its eggs into, or close to, water. The larvae hatch and live an aquatic life, feeding on other insects, tadpoles and occasionally fish. After developing through up to twelve stages, the larvae finally crawl out of the water. They split their skin and an adult Dragonfly is born.
Several Dragonfly species, such as the Giant Dragonfly, are endangered because the larvae rely on clean water and on specific water temperatures and oxygen levels to survive.
You can help your Dragonflies by keeping their water clean. Avoid using garden chemicals that might run off into a local creek or change the water quality of your pond.
DID YOU KNOW?
The difference between a Dragonfly and its cousin the Damselfly is that the damsel is much more delicate and keeps its wings close along its body when resting.
Right now, adult dragonflies are emerging from their nymph form to become brightly coloured, fast-flying and dazzling insects. Dragonflies are happy to hang around your backyard provided you have a permanent water supply, such as a pond that contains food that the dragonfly nymphs can live on.
Dragonflies chase and catch other insects in acrobatic displays. When they rest, their wings lie flat just like when they are in flight as they cannot fold them over their bodies. Dragonflies are the living representatives of the first flying insects of prehistoric times that had similar wing forms.
Dragonflies are delicate and slender insects that can catch their prey in mid flight by forming a basket with their spiny front and middle legs. They are expert fliers, with the ability to hover, and fly backwards and forwards, and have excellent vision, with two large eyes and three small eyes. Dragonflies are superb fliers but have another secret making them one of the best predators in your backyard. They have mastered the art of camouflaging themselves while flying!
The dragonfly manages motion camouflage by adjusting its position to always occupy the same spot in its prey’s retina - so they can track other insects with incredibly intricate manoeuvring that makes them appear motionless to their target. They achieve this by using a system even more sophisticated than the radar-avoiding technology of aircraft!
Attract acrobatic flyers to your backyard
- Build a pond in your garden.
- Place sedges, rushes and other plants that stick up above the water’s surface to provide perching places for adults. Such vegetation is also critical for dragonflies because the nymphs crawl up it when they emerge, making the transformation from water dweller to their free-flying adult form.
- Plant some shrubs within a few feet of the water to provide perching sites. Reeds, rushes and grasses with seed heads are good choices for your pond’s edge.
- Put a few flat rocks near the pond’s edge as dragonflies like to warm up by basking in the sun.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Dragonflies don’t rely on specific host plants to nourish their young the way butterflies do, some species do use water plants as nurseries. They insert their eggs into the soft stems.
- Like birds, dragonflies are reasonably easy to identify by their field marks. Close-focus binoculars will help you get a better look. And like birds, male dragonflies are usually territorial and defend their turf aggressively. Dragonflies resemble blackbirds or flycatchers in the way they claim an elevated perch on a stem of grass, then take off to chase away other males or make a mid-air capture.