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3 min read

Dragonfly Pin

Do Dragonflies Bite?

Yes, dragonflies can bite humans. However, they will not bite unless you are trying to capture it with your bare hands. If you decide to try and handle one, they will bite in self-defense. Dragonflies have powerful jaws or mandibles that they use to eat their prey. Only the largest dragonflies will have jaws large enough to pierce the skin.

When I was a kid, I used to play down near the creek behind my home. There was an overabundance of damselflies and dragonflies there. One day I caught a large green dragonfly with my bare hands.

Not knowing any better I handled it pretty roughly, and it bit me. I told my parents about it and they didn’t believe me.

Thinking back on it now I can understand that the reason the dragonfly bit me was that I was a “predator” and it was acting out in self-defense.

Dragonfly

Dragonflies don’t think of large mammals like humans as food. Unlike mosquitos, their prey consists of other insects. In fact, they are considered to be voracious predators. They are omnivores and will eat anything they can fit in their jaws. Usually, their mandibles rest under their body when resting, but emerge ad soon as they can capture any passing insect.

Do Dragonflies Sting?


Don’t confuse being bitten by a dragonfly with being stung by a dragonfly. Dragonflies don’t sting, because they don’t’ have the physical hardware. They do not have any venom producing organs or a stinger.

Sometimes people use the terms bite and sting interchangeably, and that’s where the confusion sets in. A dragonfly bite is caused by its mouthparts or mandible.

Dragonflies have a long tail in relation to its body and I think that clouds the distinction between biting and stinging for many people. Dragonflies are not like scorpions, bees, or wasps, that do have a stinger on the end of their tail.

A sting can only occur when an insect has a stinging organ or apparatus.

What is the best way to catch a live dragonfly?

The best way to catch a live dragonfly is too use an insect net. Check the price here on amazon.

Obviously, trying to catch a live dragonfly with your hands would be extremely difficult without a butterfly or insect net of some kind. Part of what makes them efficient predators is that they are extraordinary aerial acrobats. They can make almost instant stops in midair and change directions very quickly.

Dragonflies also evolved compound eyes similar to a fly’s eyes that can see in an almost 360-degree radius. This insect is one of the only insects in the animal kingdom that has a near 90% success rate when going after its prey. Compare that to the African Lion which has a success rate of just 19 percent.

The best way for you to handle dragonflies is to gently fold back their wings and pinch them between your thumb and your index finger. This accomplishes two things. First, it suppresses them from moving and fluttering. And second, it keeps their mandibles aways from your skin and thus prevents biting.

Are dragonflies dangerous to humans?

No dragonflies are not dangerous to humans. The most that could possibly happen from handling a dragonfly would be a small skin prick if you were to get bitten by one.

Always keep in mind that all animals will do what they have to to survive. Humans can be viewed as predators by many insect species. Dragonflies and the related damselfly are no exceptions.

The Takeaway

Dragonflies are both beautiful creatures and adept hunters. They deserve our respect. They are extremely beneficial insects that are essential to our ecosystems. Don’t go out and try to capture them and you will never get bitten by one.

How do you treat a dragonfly bite?

Usually, there is no need to need treatment when a dragonfly bites you. Remember, unless you get a bite from a rather large dragonfly. Its mandibles won't even be big enough to break the skin. However, If you happen to get bitten and it starts to bleed, a simple cleaning with an antiseptic and a band-aid will do the job. Then monitor it for any signs of infection.


1 Response

Cara Reid
Cara Reid

June 05, 2020

Dragonflies are beautiful, but I would never want to try to catch one. I didn’t know that they could actually bite! That is good to know. I love to watch them hang out on the antennae of my car :)

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