Fw: "do dragonflies bite?"

Dennis Paulson dpaulson@ups.edu
Mon, 24 Jan 2000 14:49:07 -0800

Odonata - http://www.listbot.com/cgi-bin/subscriber

For those of you beginning with odonates who might get this question but
might not have thought about the answer, here is my response to the
question Bill Mauffray forwarded, "Can you tell me if dragonflies bite?"

My answer usually consists of three stages.

"Do dragonflies bite?"  YES, dragonflies bite, because that's how they
capture their food.  They have impressive sharply pointed mandibles that
chomp down on the smaller insects they catch.

"Do dragonflies bite people?"  YES, if you catch one and hold it in your
hand and allow its mandibles to reach your skin, it will bite as hard as it
can in defense.  Very few dragonflies can even break the skin, but some of
the big ones can do so and will cause you to say "ouch" and other
four-letter words.  They're certainly no danger to you, as the biggest
dragonfly has a relatively small bite.

[but I keep large gomphid and petalurid mandibles well away from the tender
parts of my anatomy; if you want to test an odonate bite, put its mouth on
the loose skin between two of your fingers]

"Do dragonflies bite people spontaneously?"  A big resounding NO.  A
dragonfly would never land on you and bite you.  Actually, I tell people
that *no* insect would land on them and bite them in the normal course of
events.  Bees and their relatives would sting you if you disturbed their
nest, and blood-sucking flies and bugs and fleas would stick a tubular
proboscis in you.  But no insect with mandibles normally bites people, to
my knowledge.

But maybe I'm splitting hairs here - when you are pierced by a fly, perhaps
it counts as a bite.  I'll have to admit that I've never heard anyone yell
out, "ouch, a deerfly just pierced me."

Dennis Paulson, Director                           phone 253-756-3798
Slater Museum of Natural History                 fax 253-756-3352
University of Puget Sound                       e-mail dpaulson@ups.edu
Tacoma, WA 98416

Status: N