Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mosquito Eaters, aka Crane flies

Crane fly on the patio door
Every spring we get a minor invasion of these critters.  They look like giant mosquitoes.  I remember the first time I saw one, I was just a kid and I was terrified.  I thought it was going to suck every last drop of blood out of me, but the older kids just laughed and said, "It's not a mosquito. It's a mosquito eater! They're good".

Crane fly close up
It wasn't until years later that I learned they're really called crane flies and they don't eat mosquitoes. They do not bite and they do not suck blood. They are harmless.  In fact, they don't eat much at all as adults.  The larvae, which do eat plants, especially lawns, are considered a pest.  There are a gazillion different species, some as small as gnats, and a tropical species that has a leg span of 4 inches (100 mm).  This one was hanging out on our patio door.  I took photos of it from inside and out.  Its body is less than an inch long.

Bottom of Crane fly, through the glass door
I read that other people call these 'daddy long legs,' but not us. The bug we call a 'daddy long legs' around here is a true spider, and they commonly get in the house and build a cobweb in the corners of ceiling.  I'll do a post on them one day.

I am not sure the exact species of this crane fly, and it is not easy track it down as there are over 400 species of crane flies living in California, according to a local mosquito control disctrict. They are in the family Tipulidae

It appears to be a male, based on the rounded end of it's tail.  Females have a more pointy tail to deposit eggs in the soil. This may be a  Nephrotoma alterna, or a Tipula oropezoides, or Tipula jacobus.

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