Backyard Ponds

Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for Dragonflies and Damselflies
By Celeste Mazzacano, Dennis Paulson, and John Abbott

Backyard Ponds
With their brilliant colors and agile flight, dragonflies and damselflies (also called Odonata, or odonates) are the most conspicuous, appealing, and easily-recognized residents of almost any freshwater habitat. These insects depend on aquatic habitats for their survival; the aerial adults lay their eggs in or near water, and most of an odonate’s life is spent underwater in the aquatic immature stage, called a nymph or larva. Backyard habitats are part of a larger watershed-level network that sustains the different life stages of odonates, supports biodiversity in urban and urbanizing landscapes, and provides refuges and connectivity between green spaces. To help homeowners and other landowners create their own backyard wildlife refuges, the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership has released Backyard Ponds: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for Dragonflies and Damselflies.

These guidelines provide information for homeowners and other landowners about the creation, management, and maintenance of backyard ponds to attract native wildlife, with an emphasis on attracting dragonflies and damselflies. By creating aquatic resources for draongflies and damselflies in their own backyards, homeowners will be rewarded by views of visiting wildlife and will realize the ecological benefits of creating essential aquatic habitat that may be lacking or degraded in many urban landscapes.

Backyard ponds are important for odonates but the habitat benefits also go much further. They create much-needed habitat for other ecologically important aquatic invertebrates such as water beetles and bugs, they offer a cool oasis for birds, provide breeding sites for amphibians, and pollinators such as bees and butterflies are sustained by blooming emergent and upland vegetation. These ponds provide us in turn with many aesthetic and emotional benefits. 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, and improving attitudes about neighborhood safety.

“We hope that these guidelines will encourage many people to attract and embrace a diversity of wildlife in their own backyards now and for years to come, and that the actions of one homeowner inspire neighbors and communities to help create habitat corridors,” said lead author Celeste Mazzacano.

  • To download these guidelines as a PDF, click here.
  • Click here for a synopsis of the habitat guidelines and learn about the simple steps involved in pond creation to attract dragonflies and damselflies.
  • To learn more about what Xerces and the MDP are doing to gain protection of sensitive and at-risk odonate species, please click here.


Sign up for our newsletter to receive up to date information about our programs and events.

Contact Us

Email us with your questions and comments about the Aquatic Program.

Questions about the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership or dragonflies? Email us here.

Aquatic Conservation
Take Action!
Dragonfly Pond Watch

Contribute your local dragonfly sightings to this Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) citizen science project. Learn more.

Identification Guides
Field Guide for Migratory Dragonflies

Download the MDP field guide and view additional Xerces guides to identify stream and wetland invertebrates. Click here.