I dug a hole for my dragonfly pond

In late August of 2021, I put in a unique type of backyard—a water backyard. I dug a gap in my yard. It was six ft lengthy, four-and-a-half ft huge, and two ft deep on the deepest level.

I put in a pond liner, and I stuffed it with water.

I trimmed off the surplus liner, and I buried the sides and tamped them down.

Then I coated up the sides with rocks and logs, and I put in some water vegetation. I put in a small water lily (Nymphaea ‘Sioux’), one swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), one marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), one wapato (Sagittaria latifolia), two grey rushes (Juncus patens), two slough sedges (Carex obnupta), and a handful of western milfoil (Myriophyllum hippuroides), an underwater oxygenator.

Right here’s what the realm regarded like a number of years in the past, once we first moved in.

And right here’s what it regarded like this previous yr. This has change into my favourite a part of the backyard.

I didn’t put any fish in my pond, as a result of I used to be hopeful that this could change into a dragonfly pond, and fish eat child dragonflies.

I used to be not disillusioned. In July of the next yr, I noticed two cardinal meadowhawk dragonflies mating by the pond. I don’t know when you’ve ever caught dragonflies within the act, however after they mate, they do it on this unusual place. It’s referred to as a mating wheel.

The male is the brilliant crimson one, and the feminine is extra of a rusty-orange coloration. You’ll discover the male is grabbing the feminine by the pinnacle. He has pincers on the tip of his stomach, which he makes use of to hold onto his woman good friend.

When his accomplice is able to lay her eggs, the male doesn’t let go, as a result of he doesn’t need another males to mate along with her. He drags her round by the pinnacle, dipping her tail finish into the water again and again, so she will deposit her eggs—their eggs.

Later that day, I noticed the couple on the pond once more, flirting with one another. They had been flying across the perching stick that I had put within the pond particularly for the territorial dragonflies.

Solely upon nearer inspection, I noticed this wasn’t the cardinal meadowhawk couple in any case, however a brand new couple—a pair of flame skimmers. Flame skimmers are bigger than cardinal meadowhawks, and the males aren’t crimson—they’re orange. I used to be excited to have two species mate and lay eggs within the pond on the identical day. However they by no means bought right down to enterprise.

Then it dawned on me. This wasn’t a male and a feminine. These had been two males, combating for possession of the perching stick. The cardinal meadowhawk child daddy on the high of the stick was attempting to drive off a male flame skimmer who had invaded his territory.

It was a fierce battle. Leonard and I regarded on from the shadow of the willow tree.

Ultimately, the plucky little meadowhawk received. He bought his stick again. I’d all the time thought that male bugs had been deadbeat dads, however right here was one who proved me flawed. He stood guard over his infants lengthy after the mom had left. In reality, for nearly three extra weeks, he got here again on daily basis and sat on that perching stick for hours.

On highly regarded days, he would sit like this, together with his tail finish excessive within the air. That is referred to as obelisking, and dragonflies do it to remain cool by decreasing their floor space that’s uncovered to the solar.

Three weeks after the eggs had been laid, I used to be scooping some water out of the pond to see what was in there,

and I discovered a few of these. It is a child dragonfly, a dragonfly nymph. Nymphs dwell off of small creatures within the pond, particularly mosquito larvae. Each time I present my pond to somebody new, they are saying “However doesn’t it appeal to mosquitoes?”, and I say, “Sure! Fortunately, it does.” Mosquitoes are prime meals for dragonflies—each the nymphs and the adults.

The nymphs frolicked in my pond, consuming mosquitoes all summer season, fall, winter, and nicely into spring,

after which on Might 20, I started to search out these on my pond vegetation. That is the shed exoskeleton of a dragonfly nymph. When a dragonfly is able to emerge, the nymph crawls out of the water and splits its pores and skin, and the grownup dragonfly crawls out, forsaking this shell, referred to as an exuvia. The white threads are the respiratory tubes of its previous respiratory system.

I questioned if I might get to see a dragonfly really rising from the pond,

after which a pair days later, I did. It was freaky as hell. First, its head popped out, after which it wriggled most of its physique free. It did a backbend and stayed in that place for some time. Finally, it freed the remainder of its physique and hunkered down on high of its shed pores and skin. It was small, comfortable, pale, and wrinkled at that time, however it started to pump hemolymph—the insect equal of blood—all through its physique to inflate itself as much as measurement.

Right here it’s a little farther alongside. It’s beginning to look much more like a dragonfly now. The entire course of takes just a few hours.

In order that was in late Might,

however all by June and into July, I had dozens of those cardinal meadowhawks rising from my pond, and it was wild. Keep in mind the Chestburster scene from Alien? You get the gist.

Right here’s the final stage earlier than the dragonfly achieves its last type. Its wings are totally expanded, however it’s not a powerful flier but, and it hasn’t developed its shiny colours. At this stage, it’s referred to as a teneral. Tenerals are susceptible to birds and different predators, however they may quickly rise up to hurry and be zipping across the backyard.

By September of 2022, the grownup meadowhawks had disappeared, and I figured dragonfly season was over. That’s when a brand new character appeared on the scene:

a shadow darner. A big dragonfly, she roared in like a helicopter and proceeded to put eggs on the logs overhanging my pond. She returned usually to do extra of the identical, and it was a delight to see her every time.

I believed it was bizarre how she laid most of her eggs exterior the pond, and I questioned if any of her infants would really hatch,

however the next summer season,

I did discover a few of her nymphs within the pond. They had been longer and thinner than the newborn meadowhawks.

I didn’t get to see any grownup shadow darners emerge, as a result of they do it at evening. However just a few did come out in August,

and so they had been ready for me to free them within the morning. After battling the raccoons many occasions, I realized that I’ve to web my pond each evening if I don’t need it trashed. It’s a trouble, however I feel it’s value it if I can defend these spectacular creatures.

Newly freed, this shadow darner teneral frolicked for a spell whereas it bought its bearings. Then it flew away.

Thus, there you may have the story of how a tragic, patchy piece of garden in my yard grew to become an oasis—a watery wonderland energetic—within the span of lower than one yr. What was as soon as a barren patch of land has change into a precious useful resource for dragonflies and an limitless supply of leisure for me. The water backyard has been among the best issues I’ve ever added to the panorama.

I like my little pond!

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