There are about 4,000 different kinds or species of crane flies. This means that the Tipulidae (crane flies) are the largest group of flies. Most crane fly species (75%) were found by Charles P. Alexander.
People in different places call crane flies different names. Most of these names are only used by people in small areas. Some of the other names for crane flies are, mosquito hawks, mosquito eaters (or skeeter eaters), and jimmy spinners. In the United Kingdom and Ireland they are most commonly referred to as Daddy Long-Legs, but in the United States and Canada the name Daddy Long-Legs is given to arachnids that look like thin spiders and that scientists call Opiliones.
Appearance[change | change source]
Adult crane flies have very long legs and a long, thin abdomen. It is very easy to accidentally break off their delicate legs when catching crane flies. Their thin legs and abdomen may help them to escape from birds who try to eat them. Females have larger abdomens in comparison to the males. The female abdomen also ends in a pointed ovipositor that looks a bit like a stinger. Crane flies cannot sting.
The wings are often held out from the body when the crane fly is not moving. When the wings are held out, the large halteres (balancers) can be seen behind the wings. Unlike mosquitoes, crane flies can not fly well. They will sometimes "wobble" when flying.
Crane flies that live in temperate places, such as Tipula species, may grow as big as 60 mm in size. Tropical crane flies may grow to more than 100 mm. The Giant Crane Fly (Holorusia rubiginosa) that lives in the western United States can reach 38 mm (1-3/8 inches). There are also small crane flies, called bobbing gnats. These are the size of mosquitoes, but you can tell they are not mosquitoes by the V-shaped suture (groove) on the middle part of their body, the thorax. Crane flies also do not have ocelli, which are extra tiny eyes on the top of their heads.
Larvae of crane flies are divided into segments. They have a distinct head capsule on the front. The segments on the rear portion of the larva (the abdominal segments) often have long fleshy projections (like tentacles). Scientists have never seen the larvae from most crane fly species: less than 2% of the larvae are known.
How crane flies live[change | change source]
Even though crane flies look like mosquitoes, they do not bite humans. Adult crane flies eat nectar or they do not eat at all; most adult crane flies only mate and then die.
Crane fly larvae are called leatherjackets or 'leatherjacket slugs' because of the way they move and eat roots (such as those of grass in lawns) and other vegetation. Leatherjackets can sometimes cause damage to plants. Because of this, people sometimes think crane flies are a pest of lawn grass in some areas. Some leatherjackets are aquatic.
Invasive (European) crane flies (Tipula paludosa) cause extensive damage to turfgrass.
Many birds eat crane flies.
Other pages[change | change source]
- Crane fly orchid (Tipularia discolor)
References[change | change source]
- Valley City State University - Waterbugs of North Dakota key
1. Oosterbroek, Pjotr. "Tipulidae" <http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/aocat/tipulidae.html>.
Other websites[change | change source]
- Family descriptions and images
- Ohio State University Fact Sheet
- 1 Photo
- Crane Flies of Pennsylvania
- Crane Fly Tipula sp.
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