Attracting beneficials like dragonflies and damselflies to the garden is not as hard as you might think. But there are many factors that we need to look at. What is the difference between dragonflies and damselflies? What is the life cycle of mosquitoes? Should I just spray for mosquitoes? Do I need to put in big water feature? Is putting in a water garden counter-productive to mosquito control?
Beneficial insects are any insect that spends at least part of its life stage eating pest insects or pollinating flowers. There are lots of different insects that are considered beneficial, including many beetles, assassin bugs, praying mantids, and butterflies. Dragonflies and damselflies spend their entire life eating other insects, making them lifelong beneficials.
What is the difference between dragonflies and damselflies?
Both of these beneficials look very similar when flying around. Once they have landed, you begin to see the differences. In general, most damselflies sit at rest with their wings folded back along their bodies. But the main difference between both insect groups is eye placement. Dragonflies’ eyes meet in the middle of their heads, while damselflies’ eyes are set far apart.
Both insect groups undergo incomplete metamorphosis, where they grow into an adult by molting from nymph to adult. See diagram below.
A good way to see the difference is to look at the following photo. It can be difficult to tell when they are both flying, but dragonflies are usually larger, with a thicker body, while damselflies have a smaller, thinner body.
What do I need to know about mosquitoes?
Other than they are annoying and you want them to die anyways. What I have discovered is that if there is sitting water, anywhere on your property, there will be mosquitoes. That could be sitting tires, pop cans, rubber boots, anything that can collect water and hold it for at least 8 days. Even some plants hold water among their leaves for that long. This could be a call to keep your yard and garden free from trash and junk.
Can I just spray for mosquitoes?
One thing I have noticed about gardeners who try to keep their garden as chemically free as possible, they balk when it comes to mosquitoes. When you are descended upon by a cloud of blood-sucking buzzers, I get it. You want them all to die a horrible death. But spraying the garden to kill mosquitoes will kill other beneficials as well, and then populations of quick-growing pests such as aphids, spider mites, and squash bugs will overwhelm your garden.
What is the life cycle of the mosquito?
The mosquito’s whole life cycle takes about 2 weeks, from eggs to adults. Adults lay eggs in or near water, and the eggs hatch in a few days to several weeks, once submerged in water. Larvae or wrigglers swim around in water for about 5 days then form a pupa. After 2 or 3 days, the adult mosquito exits the pupal case and comes for you!
Best ways to attract dragonflies and damselflies to the garden
Add water. Wait. Yep that is it.
Seriously though, adding water to the garden is the number one best way to attract beneficials such as dragonflies and damselflies. For those of you who already have water in the garden, good for you!
Water can be added to the garden in the following ways:
- Full sized pond and water feature with falls and streams
- Pondless waterfall
- Small pond with small falls and no stream
- Fountain with open basin
- Fountain with contained basin
- Large stock or fish pond
- Natural swimming pool/pond
Adding water gardens to the landscape does more than attract beneficials like dragonflies and damselflies, it also benefits mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and other insects as well. But our main focus here is mosquito control.
Is it counter productive to add a pond to garden when mosquitoes breed in water?
There could be some argument for this, if your pond is too small. But because mosquitoes only need a few inches of water to breed and grow, adding a pond where the nymphs of the dragonflies and damselflies can develop is worth it. Plus, if your neighbors will not remove their empty, stacked tires from their yard, you know they are breeding mosquitoes to attack you.
How to get started on adding a water garden to your landscape
First – you will want to do a site consultation. You can do this by yourself or call an expert. Here at Grimm’s Gardens, we have several experts who can assist you with water garden type and location. The site should be in full sun to dappled shade, with large shade trees as far away as possible (unless you like leaves in the pond).
Second – Once you know where it will go, you need to make a budget and decide how big a water garden you can afford. Remember maintenance when planning the budget – yearly expenses like cleaning. Things to know costs for include liner, pump, rock, piping, electricity, and installation fees.
Third – Get or make a drawing and plan out the sides for water garden plants, bog plants, and marsh plants, to go in all the layers of the garden.
Fourth – once you have all the above figured out, decided when to start. If you are hiring out your water garden install, then the company will make that decision. If you are doing it yourself, start when the soil is diggable.
It does not take much to encourage dragonflies and damselflies in the garden. Add some water, do not apply pesticides, and enjoy all the benefits that come!