"do dragonflies bite?"

Bob Glotzhober bglotzhober@ohiohistory.org
Tue, 25 Jan 2000 07:30:14 -0500

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

I used to regularly do a demo for students on field trips at a nature
center.  I'd catch a dragonfly, hold it by the wings and push a finger into
its mouth.  This was to demonstrate that while "No, dragonflies don't bite -
normally"  if you capture one and push the issue it will.  Any animal
defends itself, but dragonflies under non-captured circumstances have no
reason to bite.  I did this experiment until one day I caught a common green
darner (Anax junius) which was much larger than most pond skimmers I had
typically done this demo with.  When I put my finger into its jaws and it
clamped down, it actually hurt just a little bit.  My instinctive response
was to rapidly withdraw my finger -- with the mandibles and head attached
but the body (severed at their very small neck) still in my other hand.  Not
a positive demo for a group of elementary students I had with me at the

A corollary of this question is do dragonflies sting?  Again, no - but.  I
recorded a few years back in an article I wrote (and which the amazing
Corbet picked up on in his book) an incident a friend related to me.  Mac
Albin of the Columbus Metro Parks was "noodeling" for mussels in the Big
Darby Creek west of Columbus one late August about a decade ago.  His well
tanned arms were in the water as he waded around feeling for mussels on the
river bottom.  A large darner (almost definitely the Fawn Darner, Boyeria
vinosa) flew up and landed on his arm.  Mac, a good observational
naturalist, sat and watch with wonder.  That is until this female proceeded
to try and lay an egg inside his arm.  This was repeated about five minutes
later.  This species oviposits into tree roots and branches overhanging the
stream and probably mistook Mac's arms for this typical egg-laying
substrate.  A good example of how "wife's tales" begin --  i.e. old American
slang names like horse-stinger and mule-killer.

Robert C. Glotzhober
Curator, Natural History
Ohio Historical Society		Phone:  614/ 297-2633
1982 Velma Avenue			Fax:      614/ 297-2628
Columbus, Ohio  43211-2497		e-mail:

Visit the Web Site for the Ohio Historical Society.
Visit the Web Site for the Ohio Odonata (Dragonfly) Survey (project
coordinator & newsletter editor).

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Bill Mauffray [SMTP:iori@afn.org]
> Sent:	Sunday, January 23, 2000 9:43 AM
> To:	Dragonflies
> Subject:	Fw: "do dragonflies bite?"
> Odonata - http://www.listbot.com/cgi-bin/subscriber 
> Here is a request for the group.
> [please respond directly to the party below since thsi is a forwarded
> message]
> Bill Mauffray   iori@afn.org <mailto:iori@afn.org>
> International Odonata Research Institute
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> www.afn.org/~iori <http://www.afn.org/~iori>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: Delores Savas <mailto:gaiasvigil@isni.net> 
>  "Delores Savas" < gaiasvigil@isni.net <mailto:gaiasvigil@isni.net>>
> To: iori@afn.org <mailto:iori@afn.org> 
> Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2000 2:16 PM
> Can you tell me if dragonflies bite there has been a difference of opinion
> in many articles- thanks for your help
> Delores Savas
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