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Project Dragonfly

What can dragonfly populations tell us about the future of our wildlife?

Dragonflies are incredible.

Many are considered beautiful symbols of nature and new beginnings. They undergo a total transformation from aquatic larva to aerial insect.

Some rely on multiple generations to complete one migration cycle to and from Canada. They are both voracious predators and important food sources to many other species. And like a canary in a coalmine, they can alert us when something is seriously wrong.

Today, dragonfly populations are telling us that something is wrong. Of the world’s 6,016 species of dragonflies and damselflies, 16 per cent are at risk of extinction. Research shows these are indicator species for biodiversity and our environment—and wetland loss is the leading cause of their woes.

Though these iconic creatures are facing global declines, it’s not too late in Canada. Keep scrolling to learn more about dragonflies, their ecosystems and how the wetlands we’re saving, together, give us good reason to be hopeful.

Female Green Darner Dragonfly on Phragmite
Dragonfly on milkweed

What do dragonflies eat?

The common green darner as part of an ecosystem.

Of the 154 native species of dragonflies in Canada, the common green darner may be most familiar to many of us. Green darners use wetlands across Canada for every stage of their lifecycle and are inextricably connected to many other species. This graphic highlights just a few.

View or download the full-size graphic

common green darner infographic

Who eats who? Try our latest wildlife quiz for your chance to win!

Some predator-prey connections are well-known (like dragonflies eating other insects). Others may surprise you. Can you guess the correct answer to the five examples in our new wildlife quiz?

Everyone who tries the quiz will be entered to win a prize!

Ready to play more? Click the button below to find some of our other popular wildlife quizzes.

More quizzes

Who eats who infographic

Be a citizen scientist

Log your dragonfly observations in iNaturalist to support citizen science and conservation!

Migrating dragonflies follow similar routes as their great-grandparents. Researchers believe dragonfly migration may be influenced by environmental cues like temperature and daylight.
Migrating dragonflies follow similar routes as their great-grandparents. Researchers believe dragonfly migration may be influenced by environmental cues like temperature and daylight. © DUC

What do dragonflies tell us about biodiversity loss?

Canada is known around the globe for our incredible wildlife and wild places. Our wetlands punch above their weight in supporting biodiversity in Canada and beyond.

It’s easy to see that we have an incredible opportunity—and responsibility—to address biodiversity loss first by conserving wetlands.

Though most of Canada’s dragonfly species are not currently in trouble, others around the world are. If Canada continues to lose wetlands and fall short on monitoring habitat loss, we risk the future of these creatures—creating a ripple effect with negative consequences for entire ecosystems.

What do dragonflies mean to people?

Dragonflies are linked to us through both our environment and our culture.

Research shows that the wetland habitats dragonflies depend on do a lot of good for human wellbeing, too. These wetlands:

  • Help us adapt to climate change by providing a buffer for extreme weather
  • Help reduce climate change by capturing and storing greenhouse gases
  • Reduce the severity of both flooding and drought by acting like giant sponges on the landscape
  • Give us cleaner water by capturing and processing nutrients like phosphorus
Dragonfly on a branch

Wetlands can also help provide balance among the wild species that regularly touch our lives, such as pollinators, biting insects, fish, birds, and of course…dragonflies.

For some, the spiritual meaning of dragonflies is significant. Dragonflies can symbolize change, hope, adaptability and new beginnings—a logical connection to the transformation they undergo in metamorphosis, from drab aquatic larva to beautiful adult dragonfly.

Easy ways to help Canada’s wildlife and our environment

Dragonfly populations have adapted and survived for more than 300 million years. Now they are giving us a warning—and we need to respond. The good news is that everyone can make a difference. Here are three easy ways you can help:

Save a dragonfly nursery

Save a dragonfly nursery

Learn how even a small donation can conserve threatened habitat that will be home to countless generations of emerging dragonflies long into the future.

Be a citizen scientist

Be a citizen scientist

Log your dragonfly observations in Project Dragonfly on iNaturalist and follow us on social media for the Observation of the Week!

Stay informed

Stay informed

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to become informed about conservation efforts and opportunities.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for Project Dragonfly updates and for more information.


Learn more about conservation and biodiversity in Canada

For more than 80 years, we’ve been Canada’s wetland conservation leader.

Together with our sister organizations in the United States and Mexico, we address habitat conservation at a continental scale—making sure migratory species like ducks and dragonflies find the habitat they need everywhere they go.

Check out these stories to learn more about wetland conservation and biodiversity in Canada.

Does your class or group want to learn more about dragonflies? Book our online Critter Dipping workshop to discover the wonders of the dragonfly life cycle and other wetland invertebrates.

Project Dragonfly FAQs

Project Dragonfly FAQs

Answers to commonly asked questions about dragonflies and their ecosystems, from the Project Dragonfly webinar.

Documenting Canada’s rare dragonflies

Documenting Canada’s rare dragonflies

How citizen science and wetland conservation are helping important indicator species.

Watch inside a duck’s nest box

Watch inside a duck’s nest box

Dragonflies and monarchs: multi-generation migrations

Dragonflies and monarchs: multi-generation migrations

In the world of dragonfly and butterfly migration, it can take more than one generation to complete a round-trip from north to south and back again.

N.S. and DUC Re-Commit to Managing Biodiversity on the Missaquash Marsh

N.S. and DUC Re-Commit to Managing Biodiversity on the Missaquash Marsh

Marguerite-d’Youville Wildlife Refuge

Marguerite-d’Youville Wildlife Refuge

An ongoing biodiversity improvement project located on Saint-Bernard Island, it has become a haven for creatures great and small.

Wetlands: a valuable farmhand

Wetlands: a valuable farmhand

Wetlands deliver ecological and financial dividends to dairy farmers in P.E.I.

Ducks Unlimited Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada Join Forces to Rebuild the Digue-aux-Aigrettes Marsh

Ducks Unlimited Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada Join Forces to Rebuild the Digue-aux-Aigrettes Marsh

DUC helps revitalize Digue-aux-Aigrettes marsh, in the heart of the Lake Saint-François National Wildlife Area in Quebec.

A grassland haven for the bobolink

A grassland haven for the bobolink

Ontario farming family restores bird habitat on their land to help species at risk.

Where Bobolinks flit among the cattails

Where Bobolinks flit among the cattails

Forty years is just the beginning for a restored wetland in Middlesex County.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Celebrates Purchase of St. Luke’s Marsh on Lake St. Clair

Ducks Unlimited Canada Celebrates Purchase of St. Luke’s Marsh on Lake St. Clair

Protected coastal wetland shoreline provides critical habitats for bird migration

The path from pit to paradise

The path from pit to paradise

Rapid growth drives changes to the landscape that leave less and less space to support biodiversity

A butterfly in winter

A butterfly in winter

"I looked down at my mitt and thought I had a piece of bark on it. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a butterfly."

Carp Hills

Carp Hills

Saving the breeding grounds of the piping plover

Saving the breeding grounds of the piping plover

The Junction Lake project, breeding grounds of the piping plover, is an excellent example of partners working together to conserve and restore habitats, not only in Alberta, but across Canada that benefit multiple species and promote biodiversity.

Songbird Banding at Oak Hammock Marsh

Songbird Banding at Oak Hammock Marsh

A songbird banding station outside of Ducks Unlimited Canada’s national offices in Manitoba nets a fraction of the thousands of birds that rely on the surrounding wetland every spring and fall.

Insects on call

Insects on call

Researchers are studying how pollinators and other beneficial insects use wetland habitats

Species at risk focus of wetland restoration in B.C.’s South Okanagan

Species at risk focus of wetland restoration in B.C.’s South Okanagan

DUC excavated nine new small wetlands to provide habitat for spadefoot toads, tiger salamanders and other wildlife.

Co-operation the key to conservation on Woodward Island

Co-operation the key to conservation on Woodward Island

Three breaches to the Woodward Dam and Training Wall will help juvenile salmon and improve biodiversity in marsh habitats of the Fraser River estuary.

Fighting for the salmon and waterfowl of the Fraser

Fighting for the salmon and waterfowl of the Fraser

Conservation project aims to renew fish stocks and fight invasive plants in B.C.’s most famous estuary

Canada’s boreal forest has many regions that share a common truth

Canada’s boreal forest has many regions that share a common truth

For the health of our environment and for our enjoyment of nature, maintaining biodiversity in wetlands across the boreal forest of Canada is crucial.

Birdsong everywhere

Birdsong everywhere

Celebrating biodiversity in the Saint John River floodplain with the Acadian Birder 

Does nature need cities?

Does nature need cities?

Senior conservation ecologist Abigail Derby Lewis explains how you can help take butterfly conservation efforts to your own backyard.

Restore. Recover. Rewild.

Restore. Recover. Rewild.

It’s not too late. We can recover some of the damage and restore degraded habitat. We can rewild Canada’s wetlands and other life-sustaining natural spaces.

Surprising facts about backyard birds

Surprising facts about backyard birds

Learn the unusual traits of some of North America's favourite bird species, including downloadable and printable infographics.

Beloved species from Canada’s conserved wetlands

Beloved species from Canada’s conserved wetlands

Download, print, view and share Beloved Species from Canada's Wetlands infographics.