Dragonflies have large, powerful jaws and are ferocious airborne predators, catching flying prey in a basket-like gantry of legs and dispatching it with a single crunch. Their large size, bright colours and rapacious behaviour can make them seem threatening, hence nicknames such as devil’s darning needle and horse-stinger.
The combination of a long, almost prehensile tail and a perennial confusion between biting and stinging continually clouds the issue.
In truth dragonflies are harmless to humans – unless you force your finger into their mouth. A large golden-ringed dragonfly once gave my father’s finger a bloody nip as he held it for me to photograph.
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