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Crane Fly



SCIENTIFIC NAME: Order Diptera, family Tipulidae, Tipula spp.


SIZE: Adult—1/2 to 1", larva—3/4"


This great comparison photo is from the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District in CA


IDENTIFICATION: Adults are long-legged black, brown, or gray flies with long thin bodies and wings. Legs are very long and thin and broken off easily.


BIOLOGY AND LIFE CYCLE: Adult flies lay eggs in the soil or in debris. Larvae, called leather jackets, are common in partially aquatic or very moist soil. Adults live only a few days.


HABITAT: Commonly found near water and in tall vegetation. Larvae are aquatic semi-aquatic.


FEEDING HABITS: Larval food includes decaying plant material, fungi, moss, and rotting organic matter. Adults probably do not eat or bite, just mate.


ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE: Adults seem to have very little importance other than mating and looking interesting. Larvae can mess up bonsai plant soil and other potted plants.


NATURAL CONTROL: Cut back on the watering of container plants.


ORGANIC CONTROL: Neem, citrus oil products, or beneficial nematodes.


INSIGHT: At first glance, you think the crane fly is a giant mosquito. Some people call it a Texas mosquito or "Mosquito Hawk." Thank God it doesn't bite! Because of its extra long legs and narrow wings, it is a clumsy flyer.




The larval stage is a maggot with the head so poorly developed it almost looks headless. The skin is tough, thus the name leather-jacket. When the adult is ready to emerge, the whole pupa case pushes up out of the soil about a half-inch. The case splits open on top, and in about five to eight minutes the adult escapes.


This comparison comes from a New Jersey newspaper


The adults have no apparent economic importance. The larvae prefer wet soils, will eat roots, and have been known to cause problems to bonsai plants. A friend had a bonsai Japanese maple that turned yellow. She counted fifty empty pupa cases and the soil appeared to be greasy wet, caused by the activity of the maggots. A large number of crane fly larvae in one location was a good indication of poor drainage and too much water.




For more information, visit the Texas Standard's article from March 6, 2018.





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