Dragonflies in the Garden

Have you noticed a lot of dragonflies in your area lately?  Are there more than usual? Well, there’s a reason for this. A story by Megan Backhouse in “The Age” late last year suggests that while these insects are always most prevalent from November to March, their recent abundance is being attributed to La Nina.

Landscape architect Emmaline Bowman says this is because three years of higher-than-usual rainfall in many parts of the state has improved the quality of freshwater ecosystems and reduced many of the problems associated with nutrient build-up. It’s also stopped some of the ponds and wetlands that would usually dry out in high summer from fully draining. This has all been a boon for dragonflies, because if there’s one thing these insects can’t live without, it’s water.

There are over 320 species of dragonflies in Australia. Dragonflies have a wide body with two pairs of wings. When they rest, their wings lie flat just as they are when in flight as they cannot fold them over their bodies.

Dragonflies can be up to 15 centimetres in length and different species have distinctive markings and colours. If you’re a keen dragonfly spotter, you might be able to recognise one type from another, just like birds.

Dragonflies can catch their prey in mid-flight by forming a basket with their spiny front and middle legs. They are expert fliers, with the ability to hover, and fly backwards and forwards, and have excellent vision, with two large eyes and three small eyes. Dragonflies are superb fliers but have another secret making them one of the best predators in your backyard. They have mastered the art of camouflaging themselves while flying.

Credit: Manu Saunders

Credit: Manu Saunders

The dragonfly manages motion camouflage by adjusting its position to always occupy the same spot in its prey’s retina. They can track other insects with incredibly intricate manoeuvring that makes them appear motionless to their target. They achieve this by using a system even more sophisticated than the radar-avoiding technology of aircraft.

Dragonflies are great to have around your garden as they are insect eating machines. Dragonflies and dragonfly larvae particularly love to eat mosquitoes. Adult dragonflies also eat White Cabbage butterflies and other flying insects, which they grab in mid-air.

So, if you’re in an area that was inundated with mosquitos over Summer, please respect how tremendously useful our dragonflies are, and stop and appreciate their stunning beauty. They’ll help keep the mozzie’s at bay, and you can enjoy them buzzing around your garden!