Importance of garden wildlife ponds highlighted as ‘Dragonfly Hotspot’ proves a flying success at Exbury Gardens
· Dragonfly Week (16-24 July) celebrates the importance of these wonderful creatures and the simple changes homeowners can make to attract them into their own back gardens
A five-year project to attract more dragonflies to a south coast tourist attraction has been a soaraway hit with more than double the number of species recorded at a ‘DragonflyHotspot’ pond in Exbury Gardens – and visitors are being urged to install their own wildlife ponds too.
Dragonflies are crucial bio-indicators of the health of the UK’s rivers, canals and ponds but modern-day development, drainage and pollution have threatened numbers.
Designed with the help of the UK’s leading dragonfly experts, an existing large ornamental pond at Exbury was adapted for the insects with dragonfly-friendly plants. The aim is to inspire visitors to attract dragonflies into their own gardens.
New data shows since creating this dragonfly-friendly habitat, Exbury is now attracting more than double the number of dragonfly species compared to previous years. Twenty-two types of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded including the Emperor, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Migrant Hawker and the Downy Emerald.
Last summer Exbury was granted Hotspot status by the British Dragonfly Society, recognising it as one of the best places in the UK to see these dazzling creatures. During Dragonfly Week (16-24 July 2022), volunteers from the charity will be on hand at Exbury to help visitors identify dragonflies and give them tips on how to attract them to their gardens.
Tom Clarke, head gardener at Exbury Gardens, said: “Although our pond is on a large scale here at Exbury, many of the changes we’ve made to attract dragonflies can be done on a much smaller scale in your own back garden. By installing a tiny wildlife pond, adding some plants for the dragonfly larvae and adults to thrive on, and making sure the water is clear, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your pond will attract all sorts of wildlife, including dragonflies. You really don’t need lots of space or a big budget.”
Experts and dragonfly ambassadors Ruary Mackenzie Dodds and Kari de Koenigswarter have helped Exbury with the project. Ruary said: “We began work on creating an ideal habitat for dragonflies in 2017. Before that, just ten types had been recorded at the pond. Now we have recorded 22! It just shows what putting in three sorts of aquatic plants – oxygenators, surface-coverers and tall-stemmed plants – can do. Plenty of sunshine and very few fish helps too! And these insects are not only stunningly beautiful, they also tell us a great deal about water quality.”
Exbury’s Dragonfly Pond includes floating pontoons so visitors can get close to the wildlife action, identification boards and an outdoor shelter for local groups and school children. Its popular Rhododendron Line steam railway even has a Dragonfly Halt platform to make it easy for more people to explore the area.
Exbury Gardens is one of seven Dragonfly Hotspots in England, and the first in Hampshire. DragonflyHotspots are special places, carefully chosen by the British Dragonfly Society because they support a good variety of dragonfly and damselfly species, are easy to access, and can provide opportunities for local communities to get involved with dragonfly conservation and events.
Notes for editors:
Exbury Gardens, located in the New Forest near Southampton, is open daily from 10am – 5.30pm. Arrival time slots must be booked online in advance at www.exbury.co.uk Thanks to its unrivalled collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, Exbury Gardens is famed for its riot of spring colour, as well as a vast array of beautiful, mature rare trees. Over recent years the Hampshire garden has been expanded for all-season interest with areas designed to show off summer and autumn ‘flower power’, as well as an extension of its 1 ½-mile Rhododendron Line steam railway.
British Dragonfly Society – Over the last 60 years we have witnessed the extinction of two species of dragonfly in the British Isles (Norfolk Damselfly Coenagrion armatum and Orange-spotted Emeral Oxygastra curtisii ). At least a third of the remainder are considered to be rare, localised and have specialised habitat requirements. The British Dragonfly Society (BDS), set up in 1983, is the world’s largest organisation dedicated to the study and conservation of dragonflies, damselflies and their wetland habitats.
It is a volunteer-led membership organisation, carrying out and supporting research on dragonflies, and leading practical conservation, education and public engagement activities to teach people about the importance of dragonflies and their wetland habitats.
The greatest threats to dragonfly populations come from habitat destruction and fragmentation, pollution, inappropriate habitat management, alteration of site hydrology and the impacts of climate change. It works hard to research and identify changes in populations, as well as to advise on creating and managing suitable habitats, and to educate and engage the wider public to engender greater care for these charismatic insects.
- They have been around for over 300 million years, way before the dinosaurs existed.
- They can indicate the quality of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats thanks to their fascinating life cycle.
- They are climate change indicators, as they will respond to air and water temperature changes by expanding or contracting their range.
- They have a 95% success rate when hunting, making them one of the most efficient hunters on the planet.
- Some larger dragonflies have been recorded flying up to 30mph