It’s a plane! It’s a bird! Actually, it is probably a crane fly. Crane flies have emerged over the past week across our area. We have received reports from homeowners and farmers of large numbers of mosquito-like insects covering lawns, walls, tractors and combines during harvest.
Crane flies are slender insects with long, lanky legs resembling mosquitos on steroids. They are not supersized mosquitos, but rather a type of fly. Crane flies have also been called “mosquito hawks” or “skeeter eaters” though neither name is accurate. Crane flies do not eat mosquitos, nor do they bite people or animals. In fact, most crane flies only have mouthparts that sip nectar or water during their short life span.
Adult crane flies live only a few days to a week. Their sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs for the next generation. Though they may be bothersome today, they will likely be gone tomorrow or at least in the very near future.
Female crane flies lay their eggs in moist areas such as near streams and rivers, irrigated lawns, gardens, and landscapes, or any other suitable place. Eggs hatch to reveal larvae that resemble small worms. These tiny larvae are called leatherjackets and begin consuming plant material such as fallen leaves and plant roots.
One type of crane fly, the European crane fly, was introduced to the US from Europe and can be a troublesome pest of turfgrass. The European crane fly leatherjackets consume the blades and roots of turfgrass plants and can cause significant damage in large numbers. Larvae only requiring control if found in very large numbers feeding on turf roots. Crane fly larvae are a favorite food of many different bird species, and populations are often kept in check by birds. In the majority of cases, no action is required by homeowners or farmers.