Crane Fly

  • Common Name(s): Crane Fly, Mosquito Hawk, Daddy Long Legs (also a common name for harvestmen and cellar spiders)
  • Order: Diptera
  • Family: Tipulidae
  • Common Species: Tipula tricolor
  • Commonly Confused With: Mosquitoes


How to Identify?
Crane fly adults can vary in color, but most are tan, brown, or gray in color. They possess long legs and halteres (flight stabilizers that look like small maracas underneath the wings). Due to their size and shape, many people may confuse them with mosquitoes, thinking they have some sort of giant mosquito present. Usually, crane flies can be differentiated from mosquitoes by using their body size: crane flies’ bodies are usually 1 inch in length while mosquitoes do not usually get over about 0.3 inches in length.


Where do they live?
Crane Flies live outdoors and are frequently seen on the sides of homes with their legs spread out wide. If they happen to come indoors, it is a mistake and they will not survive long. Their larvae can be either aquatic (water-dwelling) or terrestrial (land-dwelling). Larvae that are terrestrial live in the soil.

Food Source

What do they eat?
Adult crane flies feed on nectar, but many of them do not feed at all. The larvae that live in the soil will feed on grass or other plant roots; these larvae have been nicknamed leatherjackets. The aquatic larvae usually eat decaying vegetation or small invertebrates.


What do they do?
These insects are not major home infesting pests. Usually, homeowners will confuse them with mosquitoes and that can lead to confusion and panic because the person thinks they have a giant, mutant mosquito. These insects are not harmful, as they cannot bite people. They can be a nuisance, however, especially when they find their way indoors.

Fun Fact

The name ‘mosquito hawk’ can be rather misleading. While it is great to imagine these creatures saving us from the dreaded mosquito, it is unfortunately not physically possible. Their mouthparts are not capable of eating mosquitoes (or biting humans). Many of the adults just mate and die. My theory: this is a wonderful story that was made up to make a creature that looks like a terrifying mutant mosquito more friendly and inviting. It’s possible that some of the aquatic larvae may eat some mosquito larva, every now and then, but I would not say they eat enough to call them mosquito hawks.


Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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