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Are Dragonflies Dangerous?

By J. Beam
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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The dragonfly, as one of the largest flying insects, may seem menacing, but the truth that is dragonflies are harmless – at least to humans. They are predatory insects that feed mostly on mosquitoes and crop pests, making them extremely dangerous to smaller insects. However, though at times they can be seen swarming and may land precariously close to humans, they do not attack humans or domesticated animals. Dragonflies may pinch the skin if you try and are able to catch one, but they are not at all dangerous to people.

Dragonflies are in the company of cockroaches as one of the longest living insects on the planet. Fossilized dragonflies have been found with wingspans of 30 inches (76.2 cm) or more, making them the largest of insects. They have thankfully become much smaller with time and now average a wingspan of only a few inches.

There are hundreds of species of dragonflies. Adult male dragonflies are usually very brightly colored, and the wings of adult dragonflies do not fold up, even at rest. If you spot what you think is a dragonfly with its wings folded together behind its back, it is likely the damselfly – a close relative of dragonflies.

The larvae, or immature stage, of dragonflies are laid and grow in the water. Even as adults, dragonflies do not stray particularly far from sources of water. They can often be found living near lakes, streams, and rivers.

The immature stages feed off of other aquatic insects and occasionally very small fish. The adults hunt mosquitoes and other pests. Often, when they are seen swarming, dragonflies are hunting. They can swoop down upon an airborne insect and continue flying. They hold their prey between their legs and eat on the run.

Though some folklore regarding danger and secret powers surrounds dragonflies, they do not sting or bite, do not have any ancient powers, and are not considered harmful. In fact, they are beneficial insects in that they eat other harmful insects. The next time you spot a dragonfly, pay it any attention you want, but remember that it can only help the environment and may even rid your backyard of a few unwanted mosquitoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dragonflies bite or sting humans?

Dragonflies do not have stingers and are not aggressive towards humans. While they can technically bite, their mandibles are designed for catching small prey like insects, not penetrating human skin. Bites are extremely rare and usually only occur if a dragonfly is provoked or handled roughly. In the few cases where bites have happened, they've been reported to cause minimal discomfort.

Are dragonflies poisonous or venomous?

No, dragonflies are neither poisonous nor venomous. They do not have any mechanisms for delivering toxins, and they pose no chemical threat to humans or pets. Dragonflies are beneficial as they help control populations of harmful insects, such as mosquitoes, by preying on them during their larval and adult stages.

Do dragonflies carry diseases that could harm humans?

Dragonflies are not known to carry or transmit diseases to humans. In fact, they play a positive role in human environments by reducing the number of insects that can spread diseases, such as mosquitoes. Their presence is often an indicator of a healthy ecosystem, according to entomologists.

What should I do if a dragonfly lands on me?

If a dragonfly lands on you, there's no need for alarm. They are harmless and may have simply mistaken you for a structure to rest on. Enjoy the close encounter with nature, and try to stay still to observe the dragonfly until it flies away. Handling them is not recommended as it could cause them stress or injury.

How can I safely observe dragonflies without causing them harm?

To observe dragonflies without causing them harm, maintain a respectful distance and use binoculars for a closer look. Avoid disrupting their natural habitat by staying on designated paths and not touching them or their eggs. Photographing dragonflies is a great way to appreciate their beauty without direct contact.

Are dragonflies beneficial to the environment?

Dragonflies are highly beneficial to the environment. They are predators of pest insects, helping to control populations of mosquitoes, flies, and other insects that can be nuisances or spread disease. Their presence is often used as an indicator of a healthy, unpolluted water ecosystem, as their larvae develop in water and require clean conditions to thrive.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon961367 — On Jul 16, 2014

I need help identifying a critter. It's about 4 inches long, with a long tubular body that is cinnamon colored and it has beautiful translucent beige wings and black legs that scratched me good! It does not match pictures of a Palmetto bug or flying cockroach. I am stumped. I live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

In my 74 years, I have never seen such a critter (especially not in my bed!),

but am seeing insects in my garden I also have never seen and cannot

identify this year. Any suggestions?

By anon91710 — On Jun 23, 2010

The adult stage of larger species of dragonfly can last as long as five or six months.

By ivanka — On Mar 23, 2008

An interesting tidbit about dragonflies is that they live for twenty four hours only.

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