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.
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.
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.
Be a citizen scientist
Log your dragonfly observations in iNaturalist to support citizen science and conservation!
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.
- Globally, 40 per cent of species rely on wetlands, including dragonflies
- The world’s wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests
- A staggering 35 per cent of the world’s wetlands were lost between 1970-2015 alone
- Canada is home to 25 per cent of the world’s remaining wetlands
- More than 550 wildlife species rely on Canada’s wetlands, including 97 species listed as at-risk
- Climate change is driving some species further north with impacts that could be similar to invasive species—creating new competition for Canada’s native dragonflies and wildlife
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
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:
Learn how even a small donation can conserve threatened habitat that will be home to countless generations of emerging dragonflies long into the future.
Log your dragonfly observations in Project Dragonfly on iNaturalist and follow us on social media for the Observation of the Week!
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to become informed about conservation efforts and opportunities.
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.
Answers to commonly asked questions about dragonflies and their ecosystems, from the Project Dragonfly webinar.
How citizen science and wetland conservation are helping important indicator species.
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.
An ongoing biodiversity improvement project located on Saint-Bernard Island, it has become a haven for creatures great and small.
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
DUC helps revitalize Digue-aux-Aigrettes marsh, in the heart of the Lake Saint-François National Wildlife Area in Quebec.
Ontario farming family restores bird habitat on their land to help species at risk.
Forty years is just the beginning for a restored wetland in Middlesex County.
Protected coastal wetland shoreline provides critical habitats for bird migration
Rapid growth drives changes to the landscape that leave less and less space to support biodiversity
"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."
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.
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.
Researchers are studying how pollinators and other beneficial insects use wetland habitats
DUC excavated nine new small wetlands to provide habitat for spadefoot toads, tiger salamanders and other wildlife.
Three breaches to the Woodward Dam and Training Wall will help juvenile salmon and improve biodiversity in marsh habitats of the Fraser River estuary.
Conservation project aims to renew fish stocks and fight invasive plants in B.C.’s most famous estuary
For the health of our environment and for our enjoyment of nature, maintaining biodiversity in wetlands across the boreal forest of Canada is crucial.
Celebrating biodiversity in the Saint John River floodplain with the Acadian Birder
Senior conservation ecologist Abigail Derby Lewis explains how you can help take butterfly conservation efforts to your own backyard.
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.
Learn the unusual traits of some of North America's favourite bird species, including downloadable and printable infographics.
Download, print, view and share Beloved Species from Canada's Wetlands infographics.