Introducing water into your garden improves the quality of your time outside by adding a wonderfully relaxing dimension. And no matter whether a pond is large or small, they all offer beautiful reflected light, the opportunity to play with a whole new range of plants, and a peek into the secret world of wildlife!
A wildlife pond is the most natural water environment you can provide in your garden – with gently sloping sides for easy access and filled with beautiful plants, you’ll find that you won’t need to actually introduce any wildlife yourselves – it will just move in of its own accord.
Make sure you include a seating area nearby, and you’ll have a front row view of your newest residents!
As you can imagine, there are lots of possible inhabitants, so we’ve chosen just a few to whet your appetite…
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Depending on the species, the lifecycle of a dragonfly or damselfly can vary greatly, but they all have one thing in common which is that they can spend up to 95% of their lives underwater.
The eggs, which are usually laid in water, develop into larvae or nymphs from which the flying adult insects will ultimately emerge – the process can take one to two years, or be as short as six months. During their time underwater, the larvae go through a series of moults before climbing out onto a twig or plant stem for their final moult and transformation into adults. Once the adults have matured and gained their glorious colours – a process which can take up to two weeks – they are ready to mate.
Small damselflies live for only a couple of weeks as flying adults, larger dragonflies live for three to four weeks, and never usually more than eight. All are big eaters, consuming up to 20% of their body weight each day and they need good weather to hunt their prey – other flying insect such a flies, midges and mosquitoes – which makes them very useful to have in the garden!
Damselflies and dragonflies differ in the following ways – damselflies are physically smaller, their eyes are separated and positioned on either side of the body, dragonfly eyes are larger and usually touch in at least one point. Dragonflies have large fore wings and much smaller hind wings, whereas damselfly wings are fairly equal in shape and size. Finally, at rest a damselfly will hold its wings against its body, whereas a dragonfly will hold its wings out.
The most colourful common dragonflies found in our gardens include:
- the stunning Emperor dragonfly
- the Broad Bodied and Four Spotted Chasers
- Common and Ruddy Darters
- and Southern and Brown Hawkers.
The most colourful common damselflies include:
- the large red damselfly
- the azure damselfly
- the common blue damselfly
- and the blue tailed damselfly
If there are frogs within 100m of your pond and it’s suitable, they will move in all by themselves – as they’ll be adding your pond to the network they rely on.
In contrast to the dragonflies and damselflies, frogs spend 90% of their lives on land – so also providing leaf piles, rocks, logs and garden debris in which they can forage and hide will definitely improve your chances of attracting them to your pond and garden.
When it’s time to mate, this usually takes place in water, and frogs can often be seen in their mating embrace. The male fertilizes the eggs as they are laid and a mass of frogspawn results, although only 1-5% of them will make it to adult frogs. After 2-3 weeks it’s often possible to see the unhatched tadpoles wriggling about – and once hatched they attach themselves to floating weeds or grasses for a period of 7-10 days before they begin to swim around and feed on algae.
After 6 weeks, tiny legs start to sprout and the body elongates and by 9 weeks the tadpole looks more like a small frog with a very long tail. By 12 weeks, the tail is reduced to a tiny stub and it looks like a miniature version of the adult. By 16 weeks, depending on water and food supply, their transformation is complete and the young frogs leave water, next returning when they are ready to breed.
The Common Frog is, perhaps unsurprisingly from its name, most often found in our garden ponds and although they can live for up to 25 years, the average life span is considered to be around 7 years.
As with frogs, newts spend the majority of their lives on land – and actually like very similar habitats to frogs in which to shelter, forage and overwinter.
They emerge from hibernation any time from late February to May and, like frogs, head for fresh water to breed, usually between March and July. Depending on size and species, a female can lay between 150-300 eggs during a spawning season but less than 1% of these will become adult newts.
The eggs hatch in 2-3 weeks into a small fish fry-type form and after a few days, they begin feasting on freshwater plankton. As they grow, they continue their carnivorous start, moving onto insect larvae, molluscs and similar. After 10 weeks they will have developed legs and functioning lungs, and they leave the water to take up residence on land where their diet includes insects, slug, earthworms and other invertebrates. They then take between 2-4 years before they have matured enough to mate and return to the water.
As all species of newts are protected, our garden ponds are invaluable as even small ponds can support surprisingly large breeding colonies. Smooth and Palmate newts have proved the most successful at establishing themselves, although it is also possible to find the largest of our native newts – the Great Crested newt – in our ponds.
There are, quite literally, thousands of water-dwelling insects to be found in our ponds!
You’re very likely to find water beetles and their larvae, up to 70 different species of water bugs (such as water boatmen, backswimmers, water scorpions and water stick insects), up to 10 different species of pond skaters, water slaters (relatives of the garden woodlouse), snails varying in species and size from 2-3mm to 4cm, worms, fly larvae and lots more.
And the best way to see what you have in your pond? Get yourself a small net, a reference book – and get dipping – great fun for all the family!
Don’t forget that a pond will attract many more visits from garden birds too, who will just love to use them for drinking and bathing – and once you’ve seen a flock of starlings enjoying the facilities, you’ll know they have fun too!
So now you know what you can expect to see, you’ll be keen to get your own wildlife water haven up and running.
Now you’re ready to create your own wildlife water haven, our in-store concession – Rats, Cats and Elephants – stocks a great range of pond plants and pre-formed ponds – they’ll have everything you need – click here to check out their website.
If you prefer to see fish in your pond, they also stock a wide range of pond fish including koi carp, goldfish and orfe, plus offer all the equipment, food and aquatic treatments that you could need.
They also have everything for the home aquarium – both marine and freshwater – plus a full range of pet supplies too – together with friendly, expert advice should you need it.
Make sure you visit them (and us!) in-store soon – and get ready to welcome your newest residents!