PETALING JAYA: The Year of the Dragon is here! Unlike the other animals of the Chinese Zodiac, the dragon is the only mythical creature in the 12-year roster. Meaning they don't exist, like Santa Claus. Gasp! Shocker.
However, while you probably won't see a dragon fly across the sky above you, let alone a jolly chubby old man in a red suit, you probably have seen a garden variety dragon... fly, possibly in your garden. I know, I know, I'm horrible.
The humble dragonfly is a common insect that one might try to catch with their bare hands. It's not like they can breathe fire and scorch your fingers. However, some say the dragonfly can sting to protect themselves and to hunt prey. Is this true?
Unlike bees and hornets, a dragonfly does not have a stinger that these insects use to sting their prey. A dragonfly has, instead, a long abdomen or 'tail' at the end of its body.
The dragonfly has strong pointed mandibles which are used to hunt and bite its prey. And while it is a docile creature, it would try to bite you if you try to capture it or if it feels threatened.
Perhaps, the combination of a long, almost prehensile tail and a constant confusion between biting and stinging insects continues clouding the issue among people.
There have been accounts of egg-laying dragonflies that, when interrupted, continued the operation into the flesh or clothing of examining odonatists (a person who studies dragonflies or damselflies).
Such actions could well be the origins of the myth about stinging dragonflies - and could also provide the answer as to why odonates (the family that dragonflies are in) have the names of "Horse-stingers" and "Devil’s Darning Needles".
Interestingly enough, the dragonfly is one of the deadliest hunters in the animal kingdom.
But rest assured, this bug does not sting and is pretty harmless if left alone.