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.