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You Can Create A Dragonfly Pond...

Biggs' Wildlife Pond - click for more infoAnyone can attract dragonflies and damselflies to the backyard whether you are a landscape design artist or just one who dabbles in gardening. The one essential criteria is that you must live within a few miles either from a lake, stream, pond or river - any source of water that already supports dragonflies. I wouldn’t think too many of us would have difficulty.

To attract dragonflies to your backyard you need to install a pond. The market these days is filled with “instant pond kits” in all different sizes and shapes with prices ranging from fairly inexpensive to very expensive. You needn’t bother with elaborate filters and pumps to maintain water quality; we want to attract dragonflies here, not go swimming in it. You can either install the pond yourself with instructional videos, (usually enclosed with the materials), or hire a helping hand.

After your purchase you need to give some thought to its location. There are a few considerations you might want to think about before choosing a spot. You do, of course, want your pond where you can view it such as in close proximity to a window, deck, patio or garden. You also need a water source close by to fill and refill it. Since dragonflies tend to be “sun-worshippers”, you need to observe at what time of day your potential area receives sun. It is suggested that at least 5-6 hours of mid-day sun is sufficient. Your pond should also be placed in an area protected from inclement weather such as strong winds and rain. Usually an area with shrubs or small trees is enough protection. Assure that your location site is level and that any overflow or runoff from rains will not flood any other dwelling on your property.

Another rather important issue to keep in mind is that of local municipality building codes. Do you need a permit, are there any requirements such as fences, depth of water, variants in footage from other dwelling, etc.? At the same time you might want to contact your gas, power, water, telephone and cable agencies making sure there are no underground pipes or wires before digging.

Most experts suggest a dragonfly pond have a minimum surface of 40 square feet with a 10 foot diameter pond, large enough to have varying water depths to support diverse plant life. Your pond should be at least 2 feet deep or 2.5 feet deep in colder climates. Avoid going any shallower than 2 feet. Hot summer temperatures will dry up these water supplies very quickly. Also, the deeper your pond the more effective it will be in protecting dragonflies from predators such as raccoons. Your pond must be free of fish - yes, even ornamental pond fish - and amphibians which will eat dragonfly larvae.

A backyard pond consists of several components. Visiting a nearby nursery specializing in water gardening may be beneficial since they can advise you on what array of native plants would best suit your region. Make sure you tell them that your pond is to attract dragonflies and not to show off fancy ornamental fish. You will want four categories of plants, the first being submerged plants. These are rooted in the bottom of the pond and grow entirely under water. Submerged vegetation provides places for developing larvae. Floating plants, which are not rooted to the bottom, usually have their leaves flat on or near the surface of the water. Emergent vegetation also takes root under the water, but the stems or leaves poke up above the surface. Emergent vegetation includes your water lilies and spatterdock plants. Emergent vegetation is essential for larvae to climb up when ready to emerge as adults. The fourth category of plants is called marginal or shoreline plants. These are plants that grow in moist soils such as sedges, rushes, arrowhead, pickerel weed and cattails. Most marsh or swamp dwelling vegetation makes excellent perches for the developing and adult dragonfly and also provides areas for laying eggs.

Not skimping where plants are concerned is important. Plants are vital to your pond's ecosystem by providing oxygen to the water and removing carbon dioxide. Plants also provide habitat for nymphs and cover from predators.

We also want to create perches for some of these insects. Placing a few small logs, sticks or plant hooks, flat rocks or maybe some pieces of slat, around the waters edge creates excellent perches for various species of dragonflies and accommodates their specific perching postures.

The new pond should start being visited by dragonflies almost immediately. Breeding at the pond may take anywhere from up to a season to several years, depending upon the distance between your pond and other bodies of water supporting dragonfly populations. Dragonflies usually find new habitats rather quickly. Give your pond time to mature. Your vegetation will need time to establish itself and bacterial growth will need to develop. Once it has, your pond will be colonized with many types of dragonflies. Most of the species that will be visiting your pond are species that would normally breed in small ponds. You are rarely going to see those species, such as clubtails, that require specific habitats. An occasional bug that mostly inhabits small streams and rivers might show up, but for the most part your visitors will be pond dwelling dragons such as Wandering Glider, Common Green Darner, Blue Dasher, Common Whitetail and many more species known to your area.

Once your pool has been established, you will notice a light covering of algae starting to develop. This is called an algal bloom. Being tempted to skim this off the top, you must leave it there since eventually the algae will use up nutrients, die, and sink to the bottom. If your pond starts to become choked with excessive overgrowth, you must take caution in removing it. Remembering that delicate nymphs will be clinging to emergent vegetation surrounding your pond, careful cutting must be done. Once the emergent vegetation is removed, it should remain near the edge of the pool for a few days to enable any larvae to crawl off of it. The same applies for fallen leaves near the fall months - if removing check to see if there are any nymphs hanging onto them.

A word of caution: It is important to remember that any fertilizers, or for that matter pesticides, applied to your lawns or gardens may very well leach into the soil, contaminating your pond and killing precious dragonfly larvae. You might want to think of using more environmentally friendly products at this time.

Now that all the hard work is done, its time to sit back and enjoy what you pond reaps. Show it to your friends and neighbors, encouraging them to do the same, maybe going so far as to helping them construct one of there own. Creating dragonfly habitat, no matter how small, is a big step in the conservation and preservation of these lovely creatures.

For more information on building ponds, see Kathy Biggs' Pond Website.

© 2017 Sheryl Chacon Search