Become a Dragonfly Detective


The London Wildlife Trust writes:

Between May and September London’s streams, rivers and ponds light up with the dazzling, darting flight of dragonflies and damselflies.

These attractive and fascinating insects, collectively known as Odonata, thrive where the water is clean and are a great indicator species of healthy ecosystems. However, little is known about their distribution across London.

Southern Hawker dragonflyAs part of our Water for Wildlife project we are asking Londoners to become Dragonfly Detectives and help us create a map of where they live in the city. If you see a dragonfly or damselfly in your garden, local park, nature reserve, or anywhere else, you can add it to our online database.

Gardens ponds have proved very prove fruitful for this citizen science survey of dragonflies and damselflies. More than one-in-three dragonflies and damselflies recorded by the public have been spotted in private gardens – suggesting garden ponds are a vital habitat for these wonderful winged insects.

Sympetrum striolatumEven small ponds, with good vegetation, can support dozens of dragonflies and damselflies. As well as being fascinating to watch, they act as a natural form of pest control, munching on mosquitoes and midges on warm summer evenings.

Dragonfly Detectives was launched in 2016 and has already helped the Trust paint a picture of where dragonflies and damselflies live in the capital.

Rivers, streams and reservoirs all play a vital role for conserving these magnificent insects, but garden ponds have perhaps previously been overlooked as a habitat. The most commonly recorded species so far have been Southern Hawker (top left), Emperor Dragonfly (header photo), and Common Darter (middle left). One particularly rare find was a Red-veined Darter (bottom left) recorded at Woodberry Wetlands.

Red-veined DarterPetra Sovic Davies, Water for Wildlife project manager, said: “Thanks to sightings from Londoners we know that ponds in gardens can support dozens of dragonflies and damselflies. During the first two seasons of Dragonfly Detectives we heard about Common Darters resting on garden furniture, Southern Hawkers flying into kitchens and conservatories, and Emperor Dragonflies dashing across residential streets. Garden ponds allow these insects to breed and subsequently turn up in unexpected locations. If you have a pond it doesn’t take long to check what’s living there – you might be surprised with how much wildlife it supports!”

There are 57 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Britain; more than half have been recorded in London, and changes in climate and improvements to the quality of riverside habitats suggest this number may increase. Londoners can share their sightings online via the Dragonfly Detectives page of our website.

Dragonfly Detectives is supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Thames Water.

Photos by John Archer – click to enlarge


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