The dragonflies, with their dazzling appearance, brilliant colors, unique and peculiar behavior and spectacular flying maneuvers have captured human minds for many centuries. The dragonflies are fascinating insects belonging to the order Odonata and hence they can also be called Odonates. The name Odonata is derived from the Greek word for tooth. Even though the dragonflies do not have teeth, they are called Odonates referring to their strong chewing mouth parts called mandibles which are used to crunch their prey.
Now coming back to the question -“Do Dragonflies Bite? “ the answer would be Yes. Because that is how they capture and eat their food. Dragonflies are voracious eaters and they eat just about any animal they can catch and chew. But if you ask “Do Dragonflies bite humans?” then again the answer is Yes, only if you catch one and hold it carelessly in your hand in such a way that its mouth touches your skin. Most of them are not even capable of breaking the skin, though some of the bigger and stronger ones can do so and inflict some pain. They are not at all poisonous. Dragonflies are certainly harmless insects to the human population and they never bite people spontaneously. They bite as hard as they can only if they are threatened or provoked seriously. If you think about it, you will realize that it is a perfectly reasonable and justifiable reaction because it is only a natural behavior to protect themselves from potential threats. It is just a method of self defense. Some species of the dragonfly are very curious and will hover about you as if they are inspecting you but cause no harm what so ever.
Many people are afraid of the dragonflies thinking that they are harmful and find them quite menacing. This is probably because of the dragonfly’s ferocious appearance. The dragonflies have long and slender abdomen with clasping organs at the end of the abdomen. Though these organs are harmless and are used only for mating and egg-laying, they are often misunderstood by people to be stingers. The fact that the dragonflies curve their long abdominal tail region when we hold them, as if to sting, adds reason for this misconception. But this is just a reflex action. Dragonflies cannot sting since they don’t have stingers.
The dragonflies have been the subject of many myths and folklores in several countries. These are evident from the common nicknames they have, such as ‘Horse-Stingers’, ’Devil’s Darning Needle’, Snake Doctor, Water Witch, Eye Pokers, Eye Snatchers etc. The name Horse’s Stinger came about from the wrong perception that the dragonflies were swarming the horses and the horses were kicking and stamping as if they were being bit by the dragonflies. In reality, it might have been that the dragonflies were helping the horses by eating the parasitic insects which were the ones actually biting the horses. The name Devil’s Darning Needle was given to the dragonflies from a superstition that they would come around children who tell lies and also adults who curse and scold, to stitch up their eyes, lips and ears. The myths and legends of the dragonfly vary from East to West and many different cultures have symbolized the dragonflies as both good and evil. Modern science and technology have proved these unnerving myths wrong and many people have started to realize the long-misunderstood facts about the insect and its contributions as a water-quality indicator and mosquito-eater. According to naturalists, these myths are based on ignorance. People were fairly uneducated, plus the dragonflies had such horrible-looking eyes and faces. They looked so dangerous that people thought they could sting and bite and the old legends were created to discourage people from getting near them. Whatever the myths may be, let it be known that dragonflies cannot sting. They will not bite you or attack you.
In closing, it is worth noting that all animals do whatever they can to protect themselves and that dragonflies are no exception. Although these insects are harmless to human beings, it is advisable to handle the captured dragonflies with extreme care. If at all they bite, it is only too easy to react by involuntarily releasing the insect.