Conservation –how you can help dragonflies and damselflies

Recording

The British Dragonfly Society (BDS) and its Dragonfly Recording Network (DRN) always need new records in order to re-assess the status of dragonflies and damselflies in the UK regularly. All records of sightings are welcome and anybody can participate in dragonfly monitoring

Practical steps – Creating and managing habitats

The key to the conservation of dragonflies and damselflies is the quality of the water as a habitat for larvae (given that most species are sensitive to pollution and can be used as indicators of the health of the site in which they occur,) and the availability of a mosaic of terrestrial habitats for the adults. An ideal situation consists of a mixture of both long and short grassland and even bare ground near the water’s edge, with scrub and woodland nearby. This should provide areas for hunting, roosting and basking away from the intense competition that can exist at the breeding site itself.

Gardeners

“Dig a pond for dragonflies!” The creation of garden ponds for wildlife can benefit the more common and widespread species of dragonflies and damselflies. The pond should be in a sunny, sheltered location and ideally filled with rain water. Plants and animals on which dragonflies depend for shelter and food should colonise naturally, over time. If instant results are preferred, the alternative is to plant selected marginal vegetation around the edges, and floating-leaved plants and oxygenators in the water, making sure that only native plants from a reliable source are used.

Garden pond in its first year of development

Garden pond in its first year of development
© I. Johnson

Farmers

When contemplating pond creation, consider suitable sites, preferably within 200m of an existing pond. Existing ponds should be retained and, where possible, scrub prevented from obscuring the sunlight and pond margins protected from poaching by livestock. If it becomes necessary to clear out bank-side vegetation and remove silt, this should only be carried out in the autumn, and at least one third of the pond area should be left undisturbed in any one year.

It is generally advised not to cultivate soil or apply fertilisers and insecticides close to rivers and streams. A careful individual assessment is necessary but as a guide a 10m buffer zone is the minimum suggested in areas adjacent to any significant watercourse. Where necessary, the bank sides should be cut or mown on a rotational basis, so that some sections are left undisturbed in any year. Ideally, ditches should not be cleared more frequently than every other year between August and January (inclusive) and only one side of the ditch should be cleared at a time. A 1m grass strip should also be left between the bank top and the crop and measures should be taken to protect the banks and edges from poaching by livestock.

Managers of semi-natural habitats

The natural development of peatland bogs can lead to the disappearance of bog pools. In areas where there are few bog pools, it may sometimes be necessary to create new ones for dragonflies to colonise. In areas where encroachment by birch, pine and other trees or scrub is a problem, it may be advisable to pull out invasive seedlings, or fell and cart larger trees in order to keep the pool margins clear. However, before such management is undertaken, a careful ecological assessment should be carried out so as to avoid any detrimental impacts on other aquatic or terrestrial invertebrate species.