Discover Our Wetlands

From freshwater swamps and reedbeds to saltmarsh and mudflats

Emperor Dragonfly

Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park will continue to host talks and events for the Year of the Dragonfly, focusing on the conservation issues surrounding these enigmatic insects, and what individuals and community groups can do to protect them.

Why was the dragonfly selected?

Dragonflies are truly amazing, being successful hunters and prime indicators of healthy water systems.
They are most abundant and diverse in slow-moving freshwater habitats that has no fish, such as small streams and ponds, but can be found in many shallow freshwater habitats. Adult dragonflies often stay near water, but sometimes travel away from water while hunting or on migration.
They require in-water vegetation or bankside vegetation for laying eggs and for shelter.

What species do we have here in Ireland?

Commen Species Species Name
Golden-ring Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii
Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense
Common Hawker Aeshna juncea
Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis
Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta
Emperor Hawker Anax imperator
Downy Hawker Cordulia aenea
Northern Hawker Somatochlora arctica
Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata
Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum
Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum
Black Darter Sympetrum danae

Such as beetles, shield bugs or bumblebees, dragonfly names often reflect their hunting behaviour or their body colour. Skimmer species fly low over water, hawkers will chase down their prey, and darters will zoom from one area to another.

The emperor dragonfly is one of Irelands largest dragonflies, being an effortless flier. They can be seen flying by lakes and ponds usually between June to late September. One of the most regular visitors in Tralee Bay Wetlands is the four-spotted chaser, which are high speed and noisy fliers.

Their body colours vary between species. Some species differentiate themselves from male and female, while other species sexes look very similar.

Life Cycle:

Lifecycle of a DragonflyThe life cycle of a dragonfly usually includes three stages, which are the egg, nymph, and adult phase.

After breeding, a female dragonfly will pick a still pond or marsh habitat to lay her eggs. She chooses a submerged aquatic to lay her eggs on, or sometimes directly into the water.

When dragonflies hatch, they are called nymphs. They are ravenous predators, eating almost everything in their habitat, including midges, flies, tadpoles, and even other dragonfly nymphs. They moult (shed their skin) up to 12 times, depending on the species, and can spend as long as four years as nymphs. During the final moult, the nymph's skin splits, and the nymph emerges as an adult dragonfly. Over the next month, their bodies will slowly mature, their body markings and colours brightening, and their organs forming.

Adult dragonflies are also voracious predators, eating small insects, moths, butterflies, and bumblebees, which they catch while flying. Dragonflies can hover, fly backwards, forwards and sideways.

Once fully developed, a female dragonfly can mate with several males before she is ready to lay her eggs. Both female and male dragonflies only live two to four months as adults before dying.

How does climate change affect dragonflies?

A recent study found that male dragonflies are losing a crucial feature they typically use to attract female mates: the ornate black patterns on their wings. With 16% of dragonflies already under pressure from habitat destruction and prey lose, a decline in breeding will make that percentage even higher. By creating a habitat for dragonflies to breed in safely, we can help what dragonflies we have here in Ireland flourish and, maybe, even help the population grow in numbers over time.

How can I attract them to my garden?

The first step is to create a pond, big or small. Dragonflies need ponds as they spend around two years – most of their lives – as larvae in the water. The pond needs to be away from trees and have access to the sunshine for parts of the day. When filling the pond, you can use rainwater as this is (usually) readily available.

Dragonflies prefer open, clear water, so don’t make your pond overly cluttered with plant species.

To encourage dragonflies to lay eggs in your pond, grow reeds and water lilies that emerge from the water to give the female a place to perch while laying her eggs.

Remember, when choosing what plant species to put in your pond, choose species dragonflies love, and species that are native to Ireland. Some vegetation species suitable to put in the pond includes hornworts, pondweed, and water mint. Species for around the pond includes yellow flag iris, marsh marigold, and primula.

Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park:

Here in Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park, habitats have been created to encourage dragonflies to the area. Events will be held here in the Wetlands over the next year to bring awareness to dragonflies, and how we can create habitats for them as well as creating a love for their kind.

Written by Shóna Ní Chonchúir

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