It’s a Bird! It’s a Mosquito! NO! It’s a Crane Fly!
Over the past month, Arizona has seen a tremendous influx of flying insects that look very similar to giant mosquitoes. However, these insects are not mosquitoes; they are, in fact, crane flies! Often mistaken for mosquitoes, crane flies look somewhat similar to mosquitoes but are different in many significant ways.
The similarities between the crane fly and the mosquito are mostly physical, they do look similar and this is why they are often confused. Crane flies and mosquitoes also share the same type of life cycle – complete, which means that they are both born from eggs that hatch into larvae before pupating where they develop into their final adult form.
The differences between the crane fly and the mosquito are much more in number than the similarities.
- The crane fly tends to be larger than the mosquito, with a skinnier body and very long legs.
- Crane flies vary in size from very small up to two and a half inches long with as long as a three inch wingspan. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why people call them ‘mosquito hawks’, although the truth is that they do not eat mosquitoes or even attack them.
Interestingly, adult crane flies might not even eat at all during their short lives. After emerging from the pupa stage crane flies live for just a couple short weeks. During this time it is not known for sure if they eat nectar from flowers or not, but it is fairly certain that nectar is the only substance they eat during their adult lives if at all. They do not eat “blood meals” like mosquitoes; this is the most important difference between the two insects.
Crane flies pose no threat whatsoever to humans, so if you see one in your home, fear not, it is not there to feast on you like a mosquito. If you do see a crane fly in your home it is most likely because a door or window was opened and the crane fly sensed the light, following it inside to the source. They are very poor fliers and will simply fly toward any light source they see.
In order to keep crane flies out of your home follow these simple tips.
- Seal, screen, or close any doors, windows or other entry points into your home as this will make it harder for them to get inside.
- Turn off porch lights at night. Since crane flies are attracted to light, they will not be as likely to be drawn to your home in the dark if you turn off your lights at night.
- Keep foliage, wood piles and other decaying organic matter away from the perimeter of your home as this is what the larvae feed on.
Between their poor flying skills, short life expectancy and these tips, you will drastically reduce the crane fly population in your home.
A truly amazing fact about crane flies is that their bodies have features that humans have mimicked to allow for more effective design – halteres. Halteres are small club shaped objects about the size of the crane fly’s antennae that stick out of their body and sit just behind the wings. When the insect flies at high velocities the halteres vibrate which allows the insect to maintain control of the yaw, pitch and roll of its flight. This is similar in function to what we call a gyroscope on our modern aircraft. Crane flies, though annoying, had perfected flight long before humans ever thought it possible.
If you feed them, they will come. A tightly packed restaurant full of hungry customers is every restaurant owners dream, but all that good food lying around is also an invitation for some unwelcomed guests. Annoying, bothersome and just a plain old nuisance, flies can be a restaurant owners worst nightmare, and even more so for the customers trying to enjoy their favorite meal. In the time it takes to raise your arm to swat one away, this restless bug has landed, deposited remnants of filthy pathogens and bacteria, and moved on to his next meal.
More commonly known flies are fruit flies and the typical house fly. Even though their names sound harmless enough, flies can very easily carry over 100 communicable disease carrying germs.
5 Second Rule? Think Again
In the warmer months, food establishments with outdoor dining options are very popular with those looking to enjoy the weather. Unfortunately, flies typically flourish in warmer climates, and will even move indoors during the colder months. If youre dining outside, it is especially important to be aware of more than just the annoying buzzing sounds made by flies. Heres the not so tasty details of what happens when a fly lands on your food:
- Flies forage in filthy places including garbage cans, rotting food or animals, sewers, feces and more. They touch these places with their feet and the hairs found on their bodies, in turn, picking up all manner of germs, bacteria and pathogens.
- Even within a few seconds, a fly perched on your food is already regurgitating previously consumed items to be able to begin digesting the new food intake and will also drop feces as it lands.
- Fruit flies in particular are drawn to the sugar in foods, especially liquids. Those empty beer bottles or soda cans on the table are the perfect magnet for them, especially in more humid temperatures.
- In more serious instances, vector-bourne diseases like cholera and dysentery can be carried by flies
How do flies impact my business?
Sometimes viewed as a natural consequence of owning a food establishment, an unattended fly problem can severely impact your business and even businesses nearby including:
- Health violations– City health officials can issue health code violations and citations, forcing you to close your restaurant. Even if this is a temporary closure, the financial loss incurred could be detrimental to your bottom line. According to the National Restaurant Association, immediately addressing the issues found in your citation is key to avoiding further complications.
- Loss of customers– Not only will customers complain about the presence of flies, but this will also lead them to question if there are other unhygienic and unsanitary activities taking place at your restaurant. Negative feedback, word of mouth or even scathing online reviews can impact the number of customers patronizing your establishment.
- Economic impact on nearby businesses An out of control fly problem in one location can quickly spread to nearby businesses. Poor sanitation practices can adversely affect those in the immediate vicinity, which in turn can have a greater impact on the community as whole.
How can I keep my restaurant a No Fly Zone?
With a high reproduction rate and tendency to stay close to food and water sources, flies are impossible to get rid of entirely. The good news is, there are several ways to help control their numbers by ensuring best practices and taking preventative measures. Here are some ways to combat indoor and outdoor fly problems:
- Do not leave food or drinks exposed on tables and countertops. Immediately clear all tables and wipe surfaces clean, including food that is left on plates, inside sinks and in drains.
- Install fans to help keep the air circulating and keep the overall temperature cool in the warmer months. Find out if your restaurant is designed with a positive air flow system, which helps to circulate air from inside to out instead of the reverse.
- Install fly traps in food storage areas and keep all fresh food covered.
- Maintain a consistent check on all fresh foods (fruits, vegetables and meats) to ensure that they are disposed of quickly once they begin to over-ripen or expire.
- Keep your restaurants waste disposal as far away from the building as possible. Exposed garbage cans and fermenting fruits, vegetables or meat are a breeding ground for flies.
- Cover any outdoor trash cans that are in close proximity to your dining area as flies are attracted to food odors. As soon as guests vacate their tables, clear away all dishes and wipe down tables right away.
- Installing sodium vapor bulbs are helpful as flies are less attracted to the light that it emits.
- Contact city officials if you suspect that the root cause of the problem is related to city or neighborhood waste disposal practices or poor sanitation practices in the immediate community.
- Always consult a professional pest control provider if you think the situation is out of your control.
Contact a Truly Nolen Atlanta trained professional to schedule an inspection!