Wildlife Pond Update

Welcoming Dragonflies and Newts to our Wildlife Ponds

Spring has arrived and with it the next wildlife pond session at the garden – our aim is to finish the edges of the new pond with plantings of native aquatic plants. Once complete the hole in the liner (which we think was made by a mouse) can be repaired.

I thought I’d look in more detail at the life cycle of two of the groups of animals we are hoping to attract – dragonflies and damselflies, and newts.

Dragonflies and damselflies lay eggs onto plants, wood, and mud near the pond. Different species prefer different substrates. Some even lay directly into the water, and some female damselflies will completely submerge whilst remaining attached to a male, relying on the male to pull them out again. Eggs hatch within a few weeks, although some overwinter and don’t hatch until the following Spring. The larvae go through several moults, which can take a few months to up to 5 years in the case of the golden ringed dragonfly. They prey on crustaceans, worms, snails, leeches and tadpoles. Eventually they exit the water and “emerge” into adults without needing a cocoon. The adult literally steps out from the larval body over a few hours as it sits on a plant stem. Adults live 1-8 weeks before dying.

The wild flowers and rushes we will be planting will provide the habitat for these insects to lay eggs and continue their life cycles. We will also create dead wood piles and open areas of mud nearby. (credit for some information: British Dragonfly Society – Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash)

A damselfly nymph found in the smallest pond in 2021

Newts are amphibians that require both an aquatic environment and a terrestrial one. The adults are found in water from February to June and this is when the breeding season takes place. Something I hadn’t realised is that the females are larger than the males. Spawn is layed as individual eggs rather than in a large clump like frogspawn. The female wraps each egg in a leaf of pond plant. Newt tadpoles have gills allowing them to breathe underwater and they feed on invertebrates. They leave the pond in late Summer as the gills disappear. When newts are not breeding they live in damp places such as under deadwood and leaves. (credit for some of information: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, arc-trust.org)

If you have a spare 10mins here is a fantastic archived black and white film from 1942 about the life cycle of newts!

https://film.britishcouncil.org/resources/film-archive/the-life-cycle-of-the-newt

On Sunday 26th March at our Big Job Sunday from 11-4pm, we will be planting the remaining edge of the pond.

This will involve digging a small trench, overlapping the liner into it, backfilling with sieved soil and

planting the small aquatic plants. There will also be more plants to be potted into aquatic

baskets and be placed in the pond itself.

Everyone is welcome – no need to come for the whole time, just when you are free. Please bring a packed lunch if needed and gardening gloves/waterproof gloves if you have them. Please contact Margaret if you have any questions.

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