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Guidelines for Creating & Managing Habitat for Dragonflies and Damselflies

By Celeste Mazzacano, Dennis Paulson, and John Abbott

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 dragonflies 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.

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