Crane Flies Are Not Giant Mosquitoes!
By Chris Williams on March 18, 2016.
Last night I found a giant mosquito on the wall in my bedroom. It must have been an inch long. Is this some new species of mosquito? It’s not the one that spreads Zika virus is it? L. S., Peabody, MA
I can assure you that it is not the mosquito that spreads Zika virus. That mosquito is not established here in the Northeast (see Should We Be Worried About Zika Virus Here in the Northeast? for a photo of Aedes aegypti). I can also assure you that, if the body is one inch long, it is not a mosquito of any type.
You may have seen a common crane fly. These docile, nonbiting flies look somewhat like giant mosquitoes. They have 6 very long legs (that break off easily) and an elongate body with a pair of long wings. What they don’t have are the piercing-sucking mouthparts of mosquitoes. Not only do they not suck blood, but some crane flies have no mouthparts at all. Although they are sometimes called “mosquito hawks” or mosquito eaters, they unfortunately don’t prey on mosquitoes or anything else. Their purpose is to quickly mate and lay eggs, they don’t stick around long enough to feed!
Crane flies are most common in the spring, usually before mosquitoes are even out in full force. Normally, crane flies are seen resting in grass or on vegetation, especially around lakes and streams. Occasionally, a number of them can be found resting together on outside walls, often attracted to outdoor lights. When one accidentally ends up inside, it doesn’t survive long. The crane fly’s flight is more of a slow drift from one place to another.18
Docile Crane Flies Don’t Require Control Methods
Most people will never see the immature form of the crane fly which is semi-aquatic and wormlike. It’s found in wet soil, stream edges, rotting vegetation, and similar sites. After it pupates, the adult crane fly emerges.
Crane flies are not around for long. They don’t bite or sting. You will rarely find more than one or two indoors at a time – and that usually means one of the kids is leaving the door open. Crane flies are an important food source for birds and other creatures. So, with crane flies, it’s live and let live.