Do dragonflies bite or sting humans?

Can dragonflies bite? Can dragonflies sting? Are dragonflies dangerous? They're all common questions - read on to find out the answers!

Large dragonfly on woman's hand. © Simon002/Getty

Do dragonflies bite?

Dragonflies do bite, and they will bite humans, but only if you catch one and it’s trying to escape or defend itself. And only the largest dragonflies will be able to break your skin anyway.

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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.

Side view of a beautiful dragonfly resting on a plant
Dragonflies use their powerful jaws to kill their prey, but most aren’t big enough to hurt a person. © mikroman6/Getty

Do dragonflies sting?

Dragonflies don’t sting, because they physically can’t.

The combination of a long, almost prehensile tail and a perennial confusion between biting and stinging continually clouds the issue. But dragonflies don’t have a sting and so they certainly can’t sting you or anything else – all their hunting is done using their mouths.

Emperor dragonfly in flight (Anax imperator)
Emperor dragonfly in flight. © Santiago mc/Getty

Are dragonflies dangerous?

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.

But dragonflies certainly can’t sting you, and they won’t bite you unless severely provoked. If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone, and you can sit back and watch these beautiful insects dazzle you with their hunting flights.

Golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) at rest
Golden-ringed dragonfly. Dragonflies have long tails, but they don’t have stings. © Westend61/Getty
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