Do Dragonflies Sting? Do They Like Humans Or Do They Attack Us?

Deepthi Reddy
Feb 29, 2024 By Deepthi Reddy
Originally Published on Nov 04, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
Blue dragonfly sitting on grass in a meadow.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.2 Min

A dragonfly is a flying insect that belongs to the order Odonata that includes damselfly.

Dragonflies appear in a combination of yellow, brown, red, and black colors. They are fast, agile flyers with an average cruising speed of 9.9 mph (16 kph) and migrate like birds.

Dragonflies have an elongated body, a large head with multifaceted eyes, very short antennae, and two pairs of transparent wings. They have unequal wings meaning that their hindwings are broader than their forewings. Many adult dragonflies, such as groundlings, dropwings, and brown hawkers, have bright metallic-colored patches.

Dragonflies are found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Dragonflies typically live near ponds, lakes, streams, and wetlands and are predatory as aquatic nymphs and adults. Their legs are specialized for catching prey, and they are entirely insectivorous, meaning they eat only insects. They spend most of their time eating various insects such as mosquitoes, ants, termites, tiny midges, butterflies, damselflies, moths, and smaller dragonflies. Dragonflies have enemies such as birds, larger dragonflies, and spiders.

The life cycle of dragonflies varies from egg to larval stage and adult. While mating, the female dragonfly curls her abdomen to access the sperm from the male and forms a wheel. Some species even fly in this position. Males are very protective, and they make sure the female doesn't mate with another male. They keep flying near the female as she dips her abdomen in the water to lay her eggs.

Dragonflies begin their lives in freshwater bodies like ponds, as eggs that hatch into nymphs, about the size of a poppy seed. The nymphs have gills and live in water for five to seven years, depending on the species. When a nymph transforms into an adult, they are pale yellow or greenish and called a teneral adult. In this stage, they will quickly learn how to target prey and eat while in flight.

Dragonflies are distant predecessors of an ancient group called Griffinflies, a gigantic dragonfly-like insect whose fossils are found in upper Carboniferous rocks of Europe that are 325 million years old. They depict artifacts such as rock paintings, statues, pottery, and Art Nouveau jewelry. In China and Japan, they are used in traditional medicine and Indonesia as food. Keep scrolling to explore more!

If you enjoy reading our article, explore our other articles on do bumblebees have stingers? and how to attract dragonflies?

Do dragonflies like humans?

Four-winged dragonflies can sometimes be seen buzzing around your backyards during the summer or spring. They may land on someone, but they are harmless insects. A dragonfly does not sting, but when you hold the insect, it curves its tail part, which looks like a stinger and may give the impression that it is ready to sting you with its long sharp tail. Therefore, people often misunderstand the dragonfly because of its appearance and think that it may hurt them.

Dragonflies are harmless to humans unless provoked. They will fly around humans without fear as they do not see us as predators. They help reduce the danger of fatal insect bites to humans because they prey on harmful insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, and moths. Thus, they decrease the source of infectious diseases, making the human living environment safer from the dangers of dengue and malaria. Dragonflies also help horses by eating parasites and small insects on their backs. You may be interested to learn how essential dragonflies are to the environment. So, it's usually beneficial to have these insects flying around.

Dragonflies are attracted to water and may perch like a winged jewel over a pond, river, or lake. So, if you have a bubbler or a water fountain in your yard, you can see them flying around. They also love to perch on available vegetation and spend most of their time around water. Fish and dragonflies may not co-exist in your fish pond as the fish will eat the dragonfly larvae.

How aggressive are dragonflies?

Around the globe, there are approximately 5,000 species of dragonflies. Depending on the species, an adult usually has an average size of 0.75 to 2 inches (1.9-5 cm). Though they have a ferocious appearance, unlike many other insects, a dragonfly is not aggressive and does not attack people deliberately.

Naturally, a male dragonfly is more aggressive than a female and sometimes looks dangerous in a large group, but this is usually a male dragonfly's courtship behavior to attract females. Among different species of dragonflies, only a few of them are aggressive, but they still can't hurt humans.

They are curious creatures often seen flying around people, which many people consider a threat but are rarely seen stinging or biting a human. A dragonfly has a very short life expectancy, with many species living for one to two weeks, while some may live up to eight weeks.

How painful is a dragonfly bite?

A dragonfly is an insect but not a fly. However, they both have six legs and three body parts, including the head, thorax, and abdomen. The main difference between them is that flies have only two wings, whereas dragonflies have four wings.

In most cases, a dragonfly will not bite unless you force your finger into its mouth, try to catch one, or attack it. They don't harm humans and only bite in self-defense. A dragonfly bite isn't dangerous or poisonous, and most dragonflies won't even break the human skin. So, it won't be painful or hurt very much.

Only a few species of large dragonflies can break the skin and make you feel a little pain. These bites are not dangerous but look like a small red dot similar to other bug bites. However, this is very rare as a dragonfly probably wouldn't land on a human and bite.

Though a dragonfly can bite you, it will not cause any bleeding but sometimes can cause redness and a slight burning sensation around the bite. The dragonflies' bite won't break the skin. Though they have sharply pointed mandibles that can chomp down the smaller insects, their bite usually doesn't leave a mark on human skin.

Green Snaketail dragonfly on a white background.

How do dragonflies bite?

Dragonflies like butterflies have many different colors, including red, green, blue, gold, brown, purple, white, and black. They have four net-like wings which cannot be folded like most insects' wings. These wings make them fast fliers capable of going forward, backward, or hovering in a place.

Dragonflies do not bite or sting by nature. However, these beautiful insects can attack a human by biting if they are provoked. Sometimes they will bite out of self-defense, as is natural when animals w feel threatened by humans to protect themselves.

Dragonflies are from the Odonata insect category, which means toothed one. Unlike some species, a dragonfly has two sharp mandibles used to catch and crush tiny insects, which is how a dragonfly eats while in flight. Therefore, if you ever manage to catch a dragonfly, it may bite you using its mandibles. It will bite you as hard as possible, but don't worry; it cannot bite you very hard.

Why can't dragonflies sting?

Many myths surround these unique and beautiful insects. Dragonflies are ancient insects that are agile flyers and predators. They have also been called Horse-stingers and Devil's darning needles. However, contrary to the popular myths, dragonflies do not sting as they do not have a stinger like bees, scorpions, and wasps. 

A dragonfly has a slender and elongated-shaped abdomen, and at the end, though it looks like a stinging organ, it is not. That organ at the end of the dragonflies body is known as the clasper. The male dragonfly uses these claspers during the mating process. Therefore, they can not sting because they don't have any stingers to worry about.

While laying eggs, if they are interrupted, they will continue the egg-laying process onto your clothing or on human skin. This may look like the dragonfly is stinging you, and this is where the old beliefs came from that dragonflies have stingers for stinging people. Therefore, people considered dragonflies to be harmful creatures. So, not to worry about them as they don't have the same traits as a scorpion or a bee.

Do dragonflies have teeth?

Dragonflies belong to the same Odonata order as its similar-looking species damselfly. Odonata is a name derived from the Greek word Odonto, meaning tooth. However, a dragonfly doesn't have teeth but has mouthparts like serrated jaws and sharp mandibles that allow the insect to bite its wings successfully.

Researchers have proved that it is a myth that dragonflies have teeth, but they do have sharp mandibles to crush tiny insects. On average, a dragonfly can eat 50-100 mosquitoes per day. Therefore, they are known to be human-friendly insects.

Do you know that dragonflies have a natural tendency to control their body temperature? They change the position of their body with regards to the sun, like when it is hot. They will rest with the tip of their abdomen towards the sun to cool off. Similarly, when cool, they will hold their wings like giant solar panels in the sun to warm up.

What should you do if you see a dragonfly?

In Japan, people consider dragonflies a symbol of strength, courage, and happiness, whereas, in European folklore, they are seen as sinister. Many people believe them as a symbol of change. Therefore, dragonflies are associated with many beliefs, and spotting them has a lot of meanings.

When you see a dragonfly, stop, hover, and enjoy the moment as they are typically harmless. So, you can perch and watch these beautiful insects dazzling you. However, there is also a belief that big things will happen when you spot a dragonfly, and you should start enjoying your life more.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy!

If you liked our suggestions for do dragonflies sting, then why not take a look at do dirt dobbers sting or dragonfly facts?

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Written by Deepthi Reddy

Master of Business Administration

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Deepthi ReddyMaster of Business Administration

With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.

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