Did you know that dragonflies are some of the fastest insects in the world? They can fly up to 30 mph. Probably because they eat so much! What do they eat? Mosquitoes (90% of their diet), aphids, flies, wasps, ants...basically, anything on your property that you would want eaten! Dragonflies are voracious carnivores. Think of them as cheetahs of the air. 17th-century Japanese warriors called them "invincible insects."
Did you know their eyes have 30,000 lenses, for complete 360-degree vision? Wow!
So how do you get some? Here's the short story:
1. Plant a variety of trees and shrubs around the perimeter of your property.
2. Plant a variety of blooming plants.
3. Provide a protected water feature with nearby perches.
Here's the long story:
1. Trees and shrubs provide hiding places for dragonflies. Although dragonflies are predators, they themselves must worry about predators, also. Birds, frogs, lizards, spiders and fish think dragonflies are pretty tasty. So the things you do to attract them must also protect them.
2. Blooming plants attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that dragonflies like to eat. You might try black-eyed susan, joe pye weed, swamp milkweed, butterfly bushes, anise hyssop, yarrow, turtlehead, tickseed, coreopsis, hollyhocks, or aster (which comes in a myriad of colors/varieties.)
3. A water feature is the number one priority for attracting dragonflies. If you already have a pond, fabulous! Take out the fish and put in some plants and water lilies. Dragonflies spend a good deal of their lives underwater, from months to several years before they emerge to become the winged wonders that we know. Fish are likely to eat the eggs and juveniles.
No pond? Don't worry - any large container will work. Or, you can buy a pre-made plastic pond and plant it in your yard. Place it where it gets some midday sun, and where it's protected from wind. It should be at least 24" deep in the middle and shallow toward the edge. You'll need underwater plants, and some that stick out, so the babies can crawl out when they're ready. You need varying depths and places for the juveniles to hide from predators, so put some rocks in the pond, some sticking out. Plant some foliage and grasses around it to help shelter it and provide "perches."
If you're really interested in starting a dragonfly-friendly area in your yard to help with mosquito control - or just to watch these beautiful creatures - the following articles give some very good advice!
Attracting Dragonflies to Your Yard - National Wildlife Federation
Watching the dragonflies frolic - home-herb-garden.com
A Guide to Providing Habitat to Attract Dragonflies - Sage Environmental Services