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Do Dragonflies Bite? (Or Sting)

Dragonflies are one of the strongest flyers among winged insects, with large adults reaching speeds of 22 to 35 mph. They can fly backward, hover in a single spot for over a minute, and catch prey mid-air. These calm-looking insects also have common nicknames such as horse-stinger or devil’s darning needle, making it easy to wonder how aggressive they are. Do dragonflies bite? Do they sting? And how dangerous are they to humans? Read on to find out answers to these questions and more.

Key takeaways

  • Dragonflies will bite in self-defense when they feel threatened
  • Their bites aren’t powerful and will barely break the skin’s surface
  • Dragonflies are not venomous and cannot sting

Do dragonflies bite or sting?

Dragonfly on a twig
Dragonfly on a twig

Yes, dragonflies can bite you. While they don’t have true teeth they do have strong and large mandibles, similar to jaw bones on a vertebrate, with sharp and pointed tooth-like serrations. They use their mandibles to cut down prey into smaller pieces before eating. Dragonflies do not have stingers and aren’t venomous, poisonous, or dangerous to humans.

They also aren’t aggressive insects that will bite you for no reason. Dragonflies will only bite in self-defense if they feel threatened when you are holding them in your hand or grab them by their abdomen. If you are startled by a dragonfly bite, make sure not to pull back suddenly. You can accidentally pull their head off.

Do dragonfly bites hurt?

Generally, a dragonfly bite won’t hurt very much. It can feel like a small pinch. Most dragonfly bites won’t even break human skin and people barely notice being bitten.

However, some larger adult dragonflies can break your skin with their bite and leave behind two small red dots. If you have sensitive skin, the bite can cause mild pain equivalent to an ant bite.

What happens if you get bitten by a dragonfly?

As previously mentioned, dragonfly bites aren’t very painful. Around 80% of bites go unnoticed by humans and have no symptoms. However, in cases where your skin is broken or you have sensitive skin, you can feel a slight burning sensation near the bite site. In very rare cases, there will be swelling or extensive redness.

It is also very rare for anyone to have an allergic response to dragonfly bites. You can use a disinfectant to clean the bite area and will most likely not require any painkillers.

Do dragonflies sting?

A dragonfly
A dragonfly | Image by liggraphy from Pixabay

No, dragonflies don’t have anything to sting with and will not sting people or prey. Although the clasping organs at the end of their “tail” may look like a stinger, it is used by males during the mating process to clasp onto females. Dragonflies rely on their jaws and legs to attack prey and predators.

Do dragonfly larvae bite or sting?

Although the aquatic, 6-legged dragonfly larvae can look a little scary, they don’t sting. They do, however, have mandibles. Larvae of larger dragonfly species are known to nip or poke if you hold them, including turning their abdomen from side to side to insert the pointed lateral spines into your flesh.

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Unlike butterflies and moths, dragonfly larvae don’t form a pupate or cocoon before their skin splits and they emerge into adult dragonflies.

Are dragonflies poisonous? (venomous)

No, dragonflies are not poisonous. When something is poisonous it can harm you if you eat it, if something is venomous then it can hurt you if it bites you. A dragonfly is neither.

Their main defense mechanism is biting and they don’t cause life-threatening or serious health issues to humans. However, they do carry various parasites that can cause infections in pets, such as dogs or cats. The three major groups of parasites that affect dragonflies are water mites, trematode flatworms (flukes), and gregarine protozoa.

Conclusion

Although not aggressive insects, dragonflies will bite you when they feel threatened. They don’t have true teeth but have strong jawbones with teeth-like serrations they can use to bite.

Luckily, most dragonfly bites don’t break the surface of the skin or require any painkillers. In fact, many people don’t notice being bitten. You also won’t get stung by a dragonfly and they aren’t poisonous.