Backyard Ponds 

Dragonflies and damselflies are the most conspicuous, appealing, and easily recognized residents of almost any freshwater habitat, and a visit to most ponds in spring, summer or fall is often rewarded by the sight of these brilliantly colored insects in pursuit of prey or a potential mate. The buzz of these agile fliers is just part of the collective symphony of pond wildlife, and can be accompanied by the chirping of birds, a croaking chorus of frogs, the droning hum of a bumble bee, and the splash of a basking turtle returning to the safety of the water. Ponds provide living space for a diverse assemblage of wildlife, and creating, protecting, and restoring ponds provides essential habitat for dragonflies, damselflies, and other animals in landscapes where wetlands are increasingly scarce or absent. To help homeowners and other landowners create their own backyard pond habitat, the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership has released Backyard Ponds: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for Dragonflies and Damselflies.


This new guide provides information on ways to create, manage, and maintain backyard habitat to attract dragonflies and damselflies, along with other pond-dwelling wildlife, with straightforward directions for planning, siting, digging, planting, and maintaining a backyard pond. The guide outlines ways to include a variety of submerged, emergent, and floating vegetation that provides places for dragonflies and damselflies to hunt, perch, patrol, mate, and lay eggs, and includes suggestions for pond-side plantings to provide shelter from excessive heat or storms. You may even decide to install a nearby wildflower garden that can sustain the smaller insects on which adult dragonflies feed while also providing food and shelter for butterflies and bees.  

Vegetation is key! A constructed backyard pond can function as an urban oasis to a host of wildlife and a diversity of vegetation can support the different life stages of dragonflies. 

As both nymphs (immatures) and adults, dragonflies and damselflies are key predators that feed on a variety of insects, including pests such as mosquitoes and biting flies. They in turn are themselves an important food source for fish, amphibians, birds, bats, lizards, and spiders. As aquatic ecosystems worldwide are lost and degraded, the continued survival of dragonflies and damselflies can't be taken for granted. For some wetland-dependent species, constructed ponds provide a much-needed oasis within a landscape of disappearing habitat, reducing habitat fragmentation, providing refuge, and increasing connectivity between green spaces. By creating a pond that incorporates a diversity of vegetation, you can attract and sustain a diversity of wildlife that will not only benefit the local dragonflies and damselflies, but yourself as well, as a bench by your backyard pond is a perfect setting for relaxation. Green space is important to the physical and mental health of people in urban areas, reducing stress and fatigue and increasing feelings of general health, well-being, and tranquility. As Herman Melville once wrote ""...everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever".  Each season will bring a different aspect to your pond and something new to see among the plants and animals it sustains. So check out the MDP's new Backyard Pond guidelines  and help your local dragonflies--and your own well-being--by establishing a natural area for wildlife-watching and quiet contemplation in your own backyard. 

This newly released publication provides guidelines for landowners to help them create, manage, and maintain backyard ponds to attract dragonflies and damselflies. Download your copy here! 

And so are some of the aerial insects that overwintered as nymphs in ponds around North America. As dragonflies and damselflies begin emerging in your area, please report what you see on the MDP website or OdonataCentral.
Please share photos and stories of your dragonfly adventures. Email your stories, photos of dragonflies, or photos of people in action observing dragonflies. We'll include as many photos or stories as we can in future annual reports & e-newsletters.


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Photo Credits: Banner: Pond habitat, by John Abbott; 
 Side bar: Cover photo of Backyard Pond Guidelines, by Walter Chadwick, citizen science volunteer; 
Kathy Biggs and Sandra Hunt-von Arb search for dragonflies, by Celeste Mazzacano; 
In text: From left to right, Dragonfly emergence, by Peg Serani; an exuvia, by Bruce Fellman; egg-laying,
by Dennis Paulson; nymph, by John Abbott; Common Green Darner, by John Abbott; 
backyard pond, by Celeste Mazzacano 

Migratory Dragonfly  I  Partnership 628 NE Broadway, Suite 200  I  Portland, OR 97232 USA

Copyright 2014 Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. All rights reserved.