dragonflies bite dragonflies bite

Does A Dragonfly Bite? Unraveling the Myth

The many-legged and large-winged insect we know as the dragonfly has become deeply ingrained in the folklore and myths of cultures around the world. With shimmering, iridescent wings, and an otherworldly ability to fly, it is easy to see why these creatures have captured our imaginations for centuries. In fact, these beautiful creatures are becoming rare by the day. The assessment of the world’s dragonflies reveals that 16% out of 6,016 species are at risk of extinction.

However, dragonflies also possess a predatory nature that many believe to be dangerous. Because of this, one question has been asked over and over: do dragonflies bite or sting?.

The Popularity of Dragonfly Folklore

In ancient Western folklore, dragonflies were often symbols of malevolence. In fact, some communities referred to them as “devil’s darning needles.” This name came from the belief that they would sew children’s eyes and mouths shut in their sleep. In America however, female dragonflies were seen as horse stingers — capable of piercing through livestock with their tails.

These stories are fascinating but not at all true. Dragonflies are incapable of sewing anything — let alone a person’s lips closed — and they certainly can’t sting animals either. It is believed that these tales arose from the impressive hunting skills that male dragon flies possess.

dragonflies sting
A selective focus shot. Source: Freepik

Traditions about Dragonflies in the West

As insects with a rich history and lore , European languages had multiple names for dragonflies that played off their perceived evilness. For instance, people in certain regions called them “ear cutters” or “eye pokers.” These titles are reminiscent of those belonging to harmful bugs believed capable of hurting people. However, these apprehensive names don’t reflect reality; after all, we rarely hear about such behavior today.

Superstitions about Dragon Flies in America

Meanwhile on American soil (quite literally), people treated these small creatures as pests for their horses. Americans were absolutely convinced that they could bite or sting horses while they grazed. Because of this, dragonflies got a bad rap that they most definitely didn’t deserve.

The Truth about Dragonfly Behavior

It is only by understanding the truth about dragonflies that we can hope to dispel myths. The biting behavior of a dragonfly is actually quite simple. In reality, they are hunters who have a specific diet: insects smaller than them — yes, you read that right. They bite in order to catch those insects and eat them, nothing more.

So do Dragonflies Bite or Sting?

Simply put, no — absolutely not. Dragonflies have neither the ability to sting nor any genuine intention to bite humans. Their biting mechanism is designed to grab and secure smaller prey like flies in mid-flight with their serrated jaws.

Mistakenly provoke or carelessly handle a dragonfly, however, and you will get bitten. Regardless, in the vast majority of cases a dragonfly’s bite amounts to nothing more than an annoying irritation at worst.

Even if you should anger one and get bitten by it — which as stated above is highly unlikely — know that it won’t turn into some dramatic blood-sucking session from your arm or leg.

Dragonfly Acidity Biting Behavior

Although rare for humans, it does happen where a dragonfly will bite someone they perceive as threatening them or their territory . Obviously humans don’t pose much of a threat so this almost never happens; however it becomes increasingly likely if food they are eating is mishandled .

flying insects
A closeup shot of a large dragonfly on a green leaf. Source: Freepik

Myths vs Realities about Dragon Fly Bites

Contrary to what legends have always told us, dragonflies don’t actually bite people. They might if they’re provoked, but those instances are rare and they aren’t even harmful when they do bite. The vast majority of these insects can’t chew through human skin and the ones that can would still only leave a small mark.

The Life Cycle and Behavior of Dragonflies

The way these insects live and behave also reflects their reputation for being agile hunters who are always adapting. From hunting prey while swimming as larvae to flying at high speeds as adults, everything about a dragonfly is designed for survival.

Dragonfly Anatomy and Behavior

Looking at their body structure will give you a good idea of how dragonflies behave. They have two pairs of wings, large compound eyes, an abdomen and long body, plus six legs which can all be used to grab prey out of mid-air without slowing down on the fly.

Physical Characteristics and Behaviors of Dragonflies

A creature that has a long body, transparent wings and doesn’t care what direction it flies in — that’s what comes to mind when most people think of dragonflies. This isn’t wrong: excellent vision lets them spot movement from very far away and then they can dart quickly forward using their legs to capture whatever it was they were aiming for. By consuming smaller bugs while on the move itself, you will definitely agree that this is an awfully impressive hunting tactic.

Predatory Behavior and Prey Capture

When hunting prey such as mosquitos or flies, these insects prefer to hover silently in one place until it’s time to snatch it. Instead of just biting and ingesting their target, dragonflies will catch other bugs mid-air and eat them right away. This is a testament to their ability to adjust quickly in any situation.

Unraveling the Myth

In short, the folktales that say dragonflies bite people are completely made up. After learning about how little they care for humans and how much they can help manage pest populations, you’ll see that they’re actually beneficial. By teaching others what they have learned here today, perhaps we’ll all be able to appreciate the value of these beautiful creatures.

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