Welcoming Critters: Dancing Dragons



Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky. ~Dante Gabriel Rossetti




This year the butterflies were strangely absent.  There was but a handful in my wildlife garden compared to other years.  There were lots of bees and flies, and so many birds nesting.  But the critter that was more abundant than usual were the dragons…dragon-flies that is.

We have several species that adorn the back gardens mainly, but this year there were so many more everywhere from the meadow, to the front DSCN1465gardens and all over the back gardens where there is a pond.  You couldn’t look at a plant or move without seeing many dragons perching or flying.  And I was so pleased to welcome them throughout the garden as they are a key predator in controlling mosquitoes.  And did we have skeeters what with our wet spring and summer.

Dragonflies are insects belonging to the order Odonata. They have large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragons are similar to damselflies, but damselflies hold their wings against their bodies while at rest (see picture below) whereas dragons hold theirs away from, and perpendicular to their bodies when at rest.

IMG_7170Dragonflies are typically found around bodies of water such as lakes, ponds and streams  because their larvae are aquatic.  Even though they they have six legs, they cannot walk well which is why you usually see them flying or perching.

They are loved by birds, frogs, spiders, water bugs, and even other large dragonflies which is one reason they fly so fast and their larvae will deliver a painful bite.

I find dragonflies fascinating creatures and enjoy watching them in the garden.  I have never seen their larvae in the pond, but I hope to watch more closely next spring for their emergence.  I was planning to be involved in a Citizen Science project this summer called, Dragonfly Pond Watch.   But my day job took up so much time I was rarely out in the garden.  It is a wonderful project where you can help investigate the annual movements of 5 species of dragonflies in North America.  It is one of the programs of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) that was formed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada.  There are many other projects to participate in too.  Right now folks are IMG_8177monitoring the migration of dragonflies.  That must be a wonderful sight to see these beauties dancing on air.

And dragonflies have a rich history and folklore around the world:

  • In Europe, dragonflies have often been seen as sinister. They were called such names as “devil’s darning needle” and “ear cutter”, which implies evil or injury.
  • Swedish folklore says that the devil uses dragonflies to weigh people’s souls.
  • In the Southern United States, there is a folk belief that dragonflies follow snakes around and stitch them back together if they are injured.
  • For some Native American tribes they symbolize swiftness, activity and the winds of change.
  • The Navajo say dragonflies symbolize pure water.
  • And still other native tribes feel they symbolize illusions; the need to change and transform yourself.
  • They have also been used in traditional medicine in Japan and China.
  • In some parts of the world, like Indonesia, they are a food source.
  • There is a legend that dragonflies were once dragons that were tricked to change form by the coyote.


If you have a pond or water feature in your garden or nearby, I hope dragonflies are visiting….


The Dragon-fly

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

© 2013, Donna Donabella. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    What a wonderful post Donna. We have many dragonflies here with the river and marsh so close by but I can’t wait to hopefully, host a few in a new pond. I would love to be part of this program to track their migration but hear you on the time – dang if work doesn’t always get in the way! Hoping to get a little time in the garden today – it is a mess! Love the folklore. My husband said growing up that adults would tell him a dragonfly would stitch his lips together if he lied! I had never heard that.

  2. says

    “There is a legend that dragonflies were once dragons that were tricked to change form by the coyote.” I think coyote, the trickster, could well have done just that, LOL. Thanks for sharing this Donna. Out here we rarely see the Odontis .. unless someone puts in a pond… so their sighting is all the more exciting when we do.
    kathy vilim recently posted..Quirky Signs on the Interpretive Trail


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