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.