Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Benefits of Dragonflies

a green dragonfly resting on a grey rock

Hello Fellow Readers, You’ll enjoy the story of a dragonfly visiting an extraordinary memorial tree and what they symbolize. Plus, the benefits of dragonflies and their mysterious life cycle…

I partook in a happy email exchange from the caretaker of Myles memorial tree. It’s a Forest Pansy Redbud with stunning hot pink spring blooms and heart-shaped leaves that emerge shiny before maturing to deep maroon. The tree was planted at the Morristown High School last fall.

Myles Redbud started strong in early spring then suffered from the two nights below freezing. After a worrisome slow start to recovery, it is now rebounding beautifully. Along with a photograph of the tree, Margarita asked Myles’s parents if their son had any connection to dragonflies.

closeup of a green dragonfly on bare groundDragonflies symbolize transformation  & awareness of the meaning of life.

“In the seven years I’ve been here, I have never seen one, and now twice visiting, a small brown one is on the tree,” Margarita wrote.

To which Judy replied, “The google machine says: In almost every part of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization… understanding the deeper meaning of life.”

The mysterious life cycle of dragonflies

The email exchange inspired learning more about the mysterious creature that spends most of its life in water. Their nymphs are greenish-brown, making it hard to notice them in the water where they feed on beetles, mosquito larvae, and worms. Larger species feed on tadpoles and small fish.

Smaller dragonfly nymphs molt six times over two months while larger larvae molt up to fifteen times over three to five years, depending on the species.

When the time comes to become an adult, they stick their heads out from under the water to begin to adapt to breathing air. Then they climb out onto a plant. There they molt for the last time into an adult with wings.

Most of the species spend only a few days or weeks as adults, some up to a year. They are skillful flyers, speedily flying six different ways. They are stunning to look at with long bodies, often iridescent in color and have transparent wings.

Benefits of dragonflies in the garden

Their acute eyesight and swift speed make them masterful hunters. One dragonfly can eat thirty to a hundred mosquitoes in a day as well as annoying gnats. It’s true though that larger species feed on moths and butterflies, even smaller dragonflies. But the benefits of dragonflies eases the sadness.

Fossils of these astonishing creatures date back 325 million years ago. However, the ancestors of dragonflies were enormous with wingspans of up to thirty inches. Today they’re in every part of the world except for Antarctica with wingspans that range from two to five inches.

Hundreds from varying species can swarm to feed on insects such as emerging flying ants or termites. Or to migrate— research of the mysteries of dragonfly migration is underway.

Dragonfly folklore varies widely.

Dragonfly folklore varies widely depending on the part of the world. In Japan, they’re included in poetry, characterizing joy and strength with red dragonflies being especially sacred. They signify fortune and harmony in China.

In Europe, they can be a sign of black magic. Often called “devil darning needle” or “horse stinger,” yet they don’t sting at all. They will bite, however, if they feel threatened.

There’s a Native American myth they once were dragons. As the story goes, a coyote convinced a dragon to change himself into a dragonfly, and then couldn’t turn back, which sounds deceptive. However, the dragonfly came to symbolize change and swiftness—images of dragonflies in Navajo paintings next to water represent purity.

“Thanks for noticing the dragonfly, Margarita,” Judy wrote. “It’s very special indeed!”

Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

maroon leafed oung tree wiht a green watering bag around the trunk

Myles Forest Pansy Redbud’s recovery is well underway.

To learn more about Myles memorial tree, click through to A Forest Pansy Redbud of Hope.

The photographs of the dragonflies are compliments my kind neighbor Monica. Read more about the “bug lady” :^) in a previous column titled Beneficial Ladybugs.

A fascinating article on 7 Traits of Self-Realized People According to Abraham Maslow





Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Karen rimi Reply

    Thanks for the education on dragonflies! In the pottery studio a couple students over the years having a love for those humongous insects have brought them in the studio ( deceased ones) and made an impression in a clay pot Some unforgettable beautiful results of these creatures forever captured in clay!
    Thanks Mary I enjoy your posts Keep writing and sharing

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Thank you, Karen, for your kindness and encouragement. How neat that your students honor dragonflies in clay. They are remarkable!

  2. Denise Coleman-Purdy Reply

    Just want to thank you for the dragonfly info, we have this one particular species in our garden patio area! Then looking it up, found your website blog, and really enjoyed what you have to share about dragonflies. Thank you for the great blog!

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Thank you, Denise, it’s so kind of you. Dragonflies are fascinating creatures! I appreciate you reading the story :^), Mary

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