Along with cockroaches, dragonflies are among the longest living insects on the planet.
The dragonfly, as one of the largest flying insects, may seem threatening, but the truth is, dragonflies are harmless – at least to humans. They are predatory insects that mainly feed on mosquitoes and crop pests, making them extremely dangerous to smaller insects. However, while they can sometimes be seen swarming and perching precariously close to humans, they do not prey on humans or domesticated animals. Dragonflies can nip your skin if you try and catch one, but they are not dangerous to people.
Dragonflies are in the company of cockroaches as one of the longest-lived 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. Fortunately, they have become much smaller over time and now have an average wingspan of just a few centimeters.
There are hundreds of species of dragonflies. Adult male dragonflies are usually brightly colored and the wings of adult dragonflies do not fold even at rest. If you spot what you think is a dragonfly with its wings tucked into its back, it’s likely the damsel – a close relative of dragonflies.
The larvae, or immature stage, of dragonflies are deposited and grow in the water. Even as adults, dragonflies don’t stray far from water sources. They can usually be found living near lakes, streams and rivers.
The immature stages feed on other aquatic insects and occasionally on very small fish. Adults hunt mosquitoes and other pests. Often, when they are seen swarming, dragonflies are hunting. They can launch themselves at an insect in the air and continue flying. They hold their prey between their legs and eat on the run.
Although some folklore about danger and secret powers surrounds dragonflies, they do not sting or bite, have no ancestral powers, and are not considered harmful. In fact, they are beneficial insects because they eat other harmful insects. The next time you see a dragonfly, pay as much attention as you like, but remember that it can only help the environment and may even rid your yard of some unwanted mosquitoes.