Dragonflies – while we ponder upon the mystery behind their name, it accurately describes these voracious predators. Both flying adults and aquatic nymphs make up the largest and most aggressive insects hunters in the wild.
Are they just harmless insects? Or can a dragonfly bite or sting you?
Do dragonflies bite or sting? Yes, dragonflies can bite. However, a dragonfly cannot sting. Generally, the dragonfly isn’t viewed as a violent insect. They only attempt to bite if you hold them in your hand. But since they lack adequate force, their bites cannot pierce the human skin even though they may have two sharp mandibles.
How do dragonflies bite?
Just like other insects in the animal kingdom, a dragonfly has two sharp mandibles. It utilizes its sharp mandibles to capture smaller insects. And that is how dragonflies feed.
With that in mind, if you happen to catch a dragonfly, while you still have it in your hands, its mandibles can reach for your skin and bite you. It will bite as hard as possible. But do not worry, it won’t hurt.
Dragonflies attempt a bite that isn’t even hard enough to penetrate the skin on a human, although a few of the larger ones can bite hard enough to leave a little mark. But dragonflies don’t just fly about, looking for a human to pierce with its mandibles. They are non-aggressive insects. It will only bite if it thinks it is in danger.
Why can’t dragonflies sting?
Do dragonflies have stingers? No, they do not have stingers.
There are accounts, however, of dragonflies stinging people while laying eggs. Observations show that if interrupted, the dragonfly will continue the egg-laying process on your clothes or into your skin.
This is why the old rumor surfaced about dragonflies having stingers or stinging people.
Thus, there is no need to worry that they share the same traits as bees or wasps. There do not have stingers, only sharp mandibles.
Overall, you do not have reason to duck or run if a dragonfly happens to land on you or fly around you. But always remember that if you capture one in your hands, and you get too rough, there is a fat chance it will feel threatened.
If it feels threatened, it will attempt to bite you but this will hardly be noticed and won’t leave a mark, but the larger ones may bite hard enough for you to feel slight pain. But even the bite of the largest dragonfly, won’t even come close to the sting of a bee or a wasp.
Do dragonflies have teeth?
Dragonflies are classified under the Odonata insect category which translates as “toothed one”. Dragonflies were believed to possess teeth but researchers proved that this is merely a myth.
Dragonflies do not have teeth; they only have 2 sharp mandibles which are used in crushing small insects. They can capture mosquitoes and other small insects and eat using their mandibles and jaws.
A dragonfly can eat an average of 50 to 100 mosquitoes per day. Thus, dragonflies are considered human-friendly insects that eliminate harmful insects.
How aggressive are dragonflies?
Although the dragonfly looks ruthless, it is the least violent or antagonistic flying insects in nature. Naturally, the male dragonfly is more violent than the female. There are over 5000 species of dragonflies and just a few of them are aggressive (although they still can’t hurt a human being).
Sometimes, people may notice dragonflies in a large group acting violent, but this is just mating behavior exhibited by male dragonflies who are trying to please the females.
Although these creatures can be seen flying close to people, they will never hurt humans. It is rare to see them trying to bite a human and when they do, it is impossible to penetrate the skin.
Dragonflies are very curious and this is why they are found hovering around humans but it is never their intention to hurt anyone. Due to this behavior, they are often seen as a threat.
What does a dragonfly bite look like and symptoms?
As explained earlier, dragonflies would never bite a human unless it is held and seemingly threatened. Even then, most dragonflies cannot pierce human skin. Only a few large species can pierce through the human skin and cause a little pain.
Those bites are not dangerous and appear like a small red dot, similar to other bug bites. Although quite rare, if a dragonfly happens to bite you, it will not cause any form of bleeding. It can only cause redness and a slight burning sensation around the spot that was bitten.
What do dragonflies eat?
Dragonfly nymphs reside in water and aquatic vegetations waiting to ambush prey, meaning animals small enough for them to overpower. When the prey draws closer, the labium (mouthpart capable of shooting past the head) is unfurled by the nymph in a bid to capture prey. It is also common for larger dragonfly nymphs to eat minnows or tadpoles.
Adult dragonflies tend to eat whatever insect they can catch. While mosquitoes and midges top their diet, they also eat moths, butterflies, bees, flies and sometimes dragonflies. Larger dragonflies tend to eat their body weight daily.
Dragonflies and incredibly agile and trap prey mid-air. Most dragonflies can fly an average of 10 miles per hour, but larger species can take it up to 30 miles per hour. They also possess the ability to fly backwards, hover still, change direction in tight spots, and accelerate rapidly.
They can create some form of a basket with their legs just to scoop up bugs to eat without stopping. Other dragonflies may simply leave their mouths open to catch food mid-air. Some others are known to glean their food, meaning to catch insects perching above plant leaves and stems. Immature adults tend to eat caterpillars hanging from trees.
The dragonfly is revered by numerous creatures. In Japan, for instance, the dragonfly is a symbol for vigilance and focused endeavour due to the manner with which it gains upward, sideways and lowers momentum while continuing to face forward. Samurai would fashion their weapons to depict the shape of dragonflies, which represents invincibility. Some Native Americans tribes believe the dragonfly is a symbol of spring and good harvests.
Are dragonflies poisonous?
No, dragonflies are not poisonous. Their bite will not even penetrate the human skin.
Are dragonflies harmful to humans?
No, dragonflies are not considered aggressive insects but they may bite in self-defence when they feel threatened. The resulting bite is not dangerous in any way, and in most case does not break the human skin.
Do dragonflies eat wasps and mosquitoes?
Dragonflies eat many small insects including mosquitoes and wasps. They may also eat bees and ants.
Final Thoughts: Do Dragonflies Bite or Sting?
Dragonflies are voracious predators capable of biting. The Guardian has reported in a recent data study that global insect total mass declines by a staggering 2.5% a year and that includes dragonflies.