Garden ponds for insects

Janet Packham Photography

Making a pond in your garden is a marvellous way to attract wildlife, but have you ever thought how vital it might be for insects? Dr Cath explains more ...

Many insects have a rather complicated lifestyle, starting off as aquatic creatures and doing most of their growing and feeding in freshwater, before being ‘reborn’ as flying insects.

Dragonflies and damselflies are probably the most spectacular of these. We have 22 species of dragonfly in Shropshire, a spectacular addition to our summer wildlife with their fast manoeuvrable flying and bright colours, and all needing freshwater to breed. Their ugly offspring are ferocious predators of the underwater world. 

Sedge flies start life as the strange little cased caddis larvae, each building its own protective shell.


Mayfly (Kirsty Brown)

Mayflies and gnats hatch in swarms during the summer and dance above the water in mesmerising clouds. Hoverflies produce the unattractively-named rat-tailed maggots that survive even in dirty stagnant water and there are even four species of moth with aquatic larvae.

All of these creatures provide food for hundreds of birds, bats and other insects. 

Some insects maintain an underwater lifestyle as adults – diving beetles, water boatmen, whirligig beetles, water scorpions and water stick insects, all part of a fascinating freshwater web of life.

Without insects, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human life. All those tiny creatures are busy pollinating our crops and flowers, breaking down waste, keeping everything in balance as predators and prey.

In the last 100 years we’ve lost 90% of natural wetland habitat in the UK through development, drainage, neglect or pollution – garden ponds can help to make up some of this loss. Even a tiny pond will soon develop its own population of insects bringing life, diversity and beauty to your garden.

It’s a great way to help reverse the massive ongoing decline in insects – we have lost over 50% of insect biomass since 1970, and it could be much more. And it could be the start of a fascinating hobby - there’s absolutely nothing more absorbing than a pond dipping session or just lying on your tummy peering into the depths.  Get a net and a hand lens, and delve into the hidden miniature world of underwater!

Ponds and wildlife

Read some of the frequently asked questions we receive about ponds and pond wildlife.

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Four spotted chaser (c) Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography