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Project Dragonfly

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

Dragonfly populations are telling us that something is wrong

Dragonflies 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

Test your knowledge about dragonflies!

Try our quiz to test your knowledge about dragonflies—and maybe learn a thing or two!

Everyone who completes the quiz will be entered to win a DUC Gear™ YETI® water bottle!

Test your knowledge

YETI water bottle with dragonfly

Be a community scientist

Log your dragonfly observations in iNaturalist to support community 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:

Give a damselfly for conservation

Give a damselfly for conservation

Even a small donation can conserve threatened habitat that will be home to countless generations of damselflies and dragonflies long into the future.

Be a community scientist

Be a community scientist

Log your dragonfly observations in Project Dragonfly on iNaturalist and follow us on social media for project updates.

Connect with Conservation

Connect with Conservation

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

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

Learn more about conservation and biodiversity in Canada

For more than 85 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.

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.

Insects on call

Insects on call

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