How to get rid of crane fly larvae

How to Get Rid of Crane Flies in 5 Steps

If you’re wondering how to get rid of crane flies, you’re in the right place. When I first saw a crane fly, I thought it was a giant mosquito looking at me like I was its next dinner. There’s no doubt that these insects can look scary, and it wasn’t unrealistic to think that they were mosquitos (since everything is bigger in Texas!). Thankfully, I was told that crane flies are mostly harmless but very annoying. So, even though I was glad that they weren’t going to eat me, I knew I had to get rid of them.

But before I teach you how to get rid of them, here’s my shameless plug. We’ll do it for you. If you don’t have the time or you just want to make sure the job is done and done right and you live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, then give us a try. Click here to see our crane fly pricing.

After a lot of studying, I came up with five simple steps to take to get rid of these frustrating bugs. The good news is that it is possible to get rid of crane flies, but you have to be diligent and attack the problem head-on. It may take some time and work on your part if you don’t call a pest control company, but the reward of fewer crane flies is worth it. To get rid of pesky crane flies, you need to follow these five steps:

  • Identify the crane flies
  • Inspect your yard for their nesting sites
  • Encourage natural predators to cut down on their population
  • Apply insecticide to kill the leatherjacket larvae
  • Prevent them from coming back next season

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re dealing with crane flies, keep reading to learn more about them and how to get rid of them for good.

Crane fly vs mosquito

We often get asked how to identify crane flies when they look so much like mosquitos. It can be difficult! Crane flies look a lot like mosquitos, but they couldn’t be further from the blood-sucking insects if they tried. However, if you’re trying to identify whether you’re dealing with a crane fly or a mosquito, there are a few things to look for. Their sizes are different, their bodies are different, and if you look even closer, their mouths are different.


The first difference between crane flies and mosquitos is their size. Mosquitos are relatively small. They are easy to spot, but there’s also a good chance that they will sneak up on you and you won’t see them. Crane flies, on the other hand, you’d have to have pretty bad eyesight to not see!

Imagine that mosquitos are like dimes, and crane flies are like silver dollars. Quite the size difference! Mosquitos will grow to be about ¼ of an inch. Crane flies can be anywhere from 3/8 inch to over 2 ½ inches big! So, when you think that there’s a giant mosquito headed your way, then chances are, it’s just a crane fly.


Though at first glance crane flies and mosquitos look to be nearly identical, there are many differences. Mosquitos have thicker and shorter bodies. Their legs are closer together and bend more. Their wings are about the size of their body and tend to be right above their abdomen. Crane flies have a long, skinny body with wings that shoot out to the side. Their legs are long and don’t bend nearly as much as mosquitos.

They are also different colors. Mosquitos tend to be more of a brownish color once they’ve fed on blood. Crane flies are harmless and a light brown or gray color. Crane flies also have a pointed end at the bottom of their abdomens. Many people think that this is some sort of stinger, but it’s not. They cannot suck your blood through this point, nor is that how mosquitos get their blood.


One of the most important differences between mosquitos and crane flies is their mouths. Or, perhaps we could say, their lack of. Mosquitos suck up your blood through something called a proboscis. It’s a bit like a sharp straw that pierces your skin and allows them to slurp it up. Gross, right?

Thankfully, crane flies don’t have a proboscis. In fact, adult crane flies don’t even eat. They only live for a few days, and they never have to eat in that form. Only the larvae eat. So, if you look at a crane fly, you will see a space between its two front legs. On a mosquito, between the front legs, there is a long proboscis which can look a little like a third leg.

Do crane flies eat mosquitos?

Many people believe that crane flies eat mosquitos. They are called mosquito hawks because they are supposed to go after them like hawks and eat them. While that certainly would be beneficial (and we’d all start having crane fly farms), it’s not true.

Crane flies do not eat mosquitos because adult crane flies don’t eat anything. So, where’d that name come from? Well, it turns out that the myth may not be totally false. Crane fly larvae do eat, and sometimes, they’ll eat mosquito larvae. However, they don’t actively search for the larvae because they mostly eat plants and crops.

What do crane flies eat?

Adult crane flies don’t eat anything. They only live for a few days once they become adults. In fact, they die so quickly that they never need to refuel! So, while these bugs are certainly annoying, they won’t be in your hair for too long.

That being said, crane flies aren’t totally innocent. In fact, they can destroy your yard if you let them run rampant. Because of that, it’s important to get rid of them. Crane fly larvae are super hungry insects. They have to eat a lot to grow so big, and the only way to do that is to feed where they hatched.

Since crane flies lay their eggs in soil, that’s where the larvae eat. These larvae eat off of crops, grasses, and seedling field crops. What that means is that though you may not see them, they are eating at your grass in your yard. You may think that your green grass is here to stay, and then, you’ll find large dead spots in the yard. That’s due to larvae eating the seeds, leaving you without grass. After the long hours mowing, seeding, and taking care of your green yard, you could lose it all!

Crane fly larvae

The real offenders when it comes to crane flies are their larvae. When female crane flies are ready to lay eggs, they find a moist spot in soil or water. They carry the eggs in their abdomen and then put them down to hatch. Once these eggs hatch, the larvae come out looking like little worms. Unlike worms, if you press on their bodies, small tentacle-like appendages will come out. It’s like an insect straight from a horror movie!

Crane fly larvae are incredibly resilient. They have extremely tough skin and some people call them leatherjackets because of this. However, this is not a good thing. Their tough skin makes them hard to kill and get rid of, especially because you often don’t see them at all. Larvae are small worm-like creatures that can be white, green, brown, or translucent.

When these larvae hatch, they are hungry. Still, that doesn’t mean you will see them. Many crane fly species will emerge at night, making them even harder to kill! When they emerge on warm nights, they feed on your grass, killing it at the root. This makes the grass unable to recover and grow back. While there are some crane flies that are active during the day, most larvae will hide underground until it’s dark enough for them to sneak out.

Do crane flies bite?

We’ve already established that adult crane flies do not bite. They lack a proboscis, like mosquitos, so they are unable to bite, sting, or suck up your blood. But, what about the larvae? Thankfully, even though the larvae are as creepy as can be, they are not able to bite you or anyone in your family—including Fido.

What do crane flies do?

Most of the time, adult crane flies just wander. They are often found bumping into walls, people, structures, and windows. Truth be told, the adults are sort of useless. However, the adults allow the life cycle to continue by laying eggs.

The larvae like to eat. And while eating isn’t normally a bad thing, it is when it comes to crane flies! They eat a lot, and they eat your yard. We know the hours and commitment to your yard you’ve shown, so to see it all go to waste is heartbreaking. Don’t worry, we’ll totally mourn over your yard with you. Larvae eat your grassroots, so say goodbye to green and hello to brown.

How to kill crane flies

In this world, it’s kill crane flies or watch your yard die. The problem is that by the time you get someone out to kill the crane flies, it could be too late. It starts with the larvae, and by the time you see the adults, you can pretty much guarantee there are larvae everywhere. So, how do you kill these larvae?

Well, you need an insecticide treatment. You can try to do this yourself, but if you need to know how to get rid of crane flies quickly and effectively, you should call out a pest control company, like Vinx, to take care of them.

How to get rid of crane flies

Unfortunately, you can kill all the crane flies you want and that may not make a difference. Though killing them will get rid of the adults or larvae for the time being, it may not be enough to stop them from coming back year after year. To do that, you need to get rid of crane flies for good. Thankfully, that can be done in five simple steps.

If you follow these steps, you’re on your way to finally ridding your home of the crane flies. That means you’ll get your yard back, and you’ll no longer struggle with brown splotches or dead grass again. Here are the five steps you need to take to get rid of crane flies:


The first thing you need to do is identify what you’re dealing with. In this article, we detailed how you can tell whether you’re dealing with crane flies or mosquitos. Since it’s important to distinguish which one you’re dealing with, check to see if the bugs look like crane flies.

If you’re dealing with crane flies, the bugs should be over an inch long, long and skinny bodies, wings that are clear and stick out to the side, and long legs that don’t bend. There should also be no proboscis or mouth on the bugs. If the bugs you’re dealing with match this description, they’re crane flies.

But, what if you’re dealing with larvae? The larvae can be about an inch long, green, brown, or white, and have tentacle-like appendages coming from its body. You will find these bugs amongst the grass, wet soil, or leaves.


Once you’ve identified what bugs you’re dealing with, inspect your yard and try to find where the bugs are coming from. If you can find a spot where they are concentrated, this will give you an idea of why they might be there. Crane flies often seek out wet spots in the yard, meaning that your yard doesn’t have healthy draining capabilities. It’s important to identify where you’ve gone wrong and where you can fix things.

It’s also important to know where you should do the next two steps: encourage natural predators and apply insecticide. While you can try to increase and apply all over the yard, it’s better when you have a concentrated area to work with.


The next step in getting rid of crane flies is encouraging natural predators. There are a few animals that will eat crane flies, but perhaps one of the best is birds. Birds will eat both the larvae of crane flies and the adult crane flies, which will help you to cut down on the amount that you see. When you allow more birds into your yard, there’s a good chance that you will see a cut in the number of bugs in the yard.

To encourage birds to come into your yard, try putting out some bird feeders. This can help them stay nearby, but it will also let them know that there is always food in your yard should they need it. This may seem counterintuitive to feed them when you want them to hunt for crane flies, but it will bring them into the yard and they’ll continue searching for bugs.

Another way to get more natural predators into your yard is by having a safe place for them to reside. If you have a birdhouse where they can live or nest, birds will keep coming back to your yard. While they are there, they will look for nutrient-rich larvae for themselves and their babies. In addition to that, birds can prevent other bugs from laying their eggs. They don’t just get rid of crane flies, but other pests as well. It’s a win-win situation!


Now, it’s important to remember that insecticide is needed to kill these crane flies and prevent the larvae from becoming adults and laying more eggs. However, this is possibly the most difficult step of all. Crane flies have extremely tough skin and often don’t come out during the day. They like to stay hidden, and by doing so, they can be hard to kill.

Many of the insecticides that you can purchase from the store will not be potent enough to kill the leatherjackets. While it may help to cut down on other pests, when crane fly larvae are burrowing underground and away from the insecticide, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to kill them. You need an insecticide that is incredibly strong to kill leatherjackets, and sometimes, only pest control companies can buy the product needed.

Try applying an insecticide all over the yard. Make sure to pay special attention to the spots that are wet or moist as that’s where most of the larvae and eggs will be. If you aren’t seeing a decrease in the number of crane flies, call a reputable pest control company. The products they use are more effective than the ones you can purchase at the store. Also, many pest control companies have guarantees, which mean they will keep coming back out and retreating until the bugs are gone.


The last step to get rid of crane flies is to prevent them from coming back. Whether you’re a DIYer or you call a pest control company, prevention is truly the most important step. There are a few things that you can do to make sure that your yard is set up so that crane flies don’t come back. You need to make your yard healthy so that crane flies don’t want to lay eggs there. So, how do you do this?

The first thing you need to do is check how well your yard drains. Moist areas are heaven for crane flies, so if there are any spots that don’t properly drain, you need to get those fixed. You should also aerate your soil so that it is healthy and not too wet in one area and not the other.

Another thing you need to do is keep your lawn mowed. Mowing your lawn to a healthy height can prevent leatherjackets. This is because when the lawn is healthy, you won’t have to water it as much, which stops the moist soil that crane flies love so much. You’ll also want to keep out extra piles of leaves or wood around. This can attract the environment that crane flies love so much.

Key Takeaways

  • Crane flies are much larger than mosquitos, and they are also harmless to humans
  • Crane fly larvae feed on grass and kill your lawn
  • Encouraging natural predators can keep crane fly population to a minimum
  • Applying a quarterly pest control treatment can kill the larvae and adults
  • Keep a healthy lawn and ensure everything drains properly around your home to prevent crane flies

Conclusion: How to get rid of crane flies

Though crane flies may be harmless to you, they aren’t harmless to your yard. They will kill your grass and continue to nest in moist areas. Due to this, you need to keep a healthy lawn and apply a quarterly pest treatment. Since insecticide from the store is often not strong enough to kill crane flies, it’s important to find a reputable pest control company that can get rid of the crane fly population in your home.

If you live in the Dallas area, Vinx Pest Control can help get rid of the crane flies around your home for good. We know how annoying it is to find these large bugs around your home or wake up to brown patches in the yard. Because we’ve been there, we’ve tailored our service to specifically attack crane flies. We offer a premium pest control service that will make sure the only leather jacket you see is the leather jacket hanging in your closet. Not only do we apply insecticide with a liquid treatment, but we granulate your yard, which helps to get rid of leather jackets and other pests that hang out in your soil.

Perhaps the best part of Vinx is that we offer a guarantee. If you are still seeing bugs, give us a call. We’ll come out again and retreat for free until they are gone. Our quarterly treatments will get rid of almost all bugs—including crane flies—and the only finger you’ll have to lift is the one you use to give us a call. If you’re sick of seeing crane flies around the house, fill out the form or give us a call for a free quote. We service, Dallas, Plano, Frisco, Rockwall, Garland, Coppell, Farmers Branch, and more!

Crane Fly Control: How To Get Rid of Crane Flies

This page is a Crane Fly control guide. By using the products and methods suggested, you will get rid of crane flies. Follow this guide and use the recommended products, and we guarantee 100% control of crane flies.

If you are noticing brown patches in your grass, you might have a crane fly infestation. The crane fly, also commonly known as a mosquito hawk, looks similar to a mosquito, except it is much larger with longer legs. If left alone, this insect can cause noticeable damage to your lawn.

In the United States, the most prevalent species of crane fly is the European Crane Fly. Although they might have an intimidating look, this insect is harmless as an adult. It is the crane fly larvae that causes damage to vegetation, which is what the treatment will be focused on.

The larvae have the appearance of white or brown worms. Crane fly larvae are known to eat roots and stems.

If you have crane flies and want to get rid of them, our professional DIY treatment guide can help you to get rid of a crane fly infestation with ease.


Properly identifying the crane fly is the first step towards control.

Most people mistake crane flies for mosquitoes, but the crane fly is much bigger; it will typically grow to be about 2 inches long, while a mosquito will only grow to about a quarter of an inch long. Crane flies also have delicate bodies and long, thin legs. Another distinction is their feeding habits. Crane flies feed on vegetation, and the mosquito feeds on blood.

Identifying Crane Fly Larvae

Crane fly larvae may be green, white, or brown in color. They are often called leatherjackets and have extremely tough skin. They mainly hide in the soil unless it is a warm night. Crane fly larvae eat decaying matter, roots, and turf.


The next step in the control process is inspection. Inspecting the property for crane fly activity is important because this will ensure a more targeted application, and will prevent you from wasting product.

Where to Inspect

Crane flies are most active in spring and fall, and will lay their eggs in moist soil, so you will want to check around areas that tend to experience high levels of moisture. Scan the property, keeping an eye out for high-moisture areas, such as mulch beds, flower beds, near lawn fountains, or around the structure where faucets and other plumbing may drip or leak. Take note of these leaky or high-moisture areas, as they will need to be addressed in order to prevent re-infestations.

What to Look For

During your inspection, you are looking for both crane fly larvae and the presence of adults. Scan your yard, paying close attention to patches of discolored or dead grass. Inspect the soil in search of larvae by cutting a square foot section of your lawn. It is best to search the soil near the edge in search of healthy grass to feed on. Thoroughly check the sod and soil of the selected piece. If you can see crane fly larvae, you need to begin treatment as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for the crane fly adults to find where they lay their eggs.


Once you have completed your inspection and know the areas that need to be treated, you can begin the process of controlling crane flies. For effective crane fly control, use a combination of Reclaim I/T and Martin’s IG Regulator.

Reclaim I/T is a liquid concentrate that is labelled to not only control crane flies, but over 70 different insect pests. It is also a repellent, so it will create a deadly and preventative solution.

Because the crane fly larvae cause the most damage to your vegetation, you will mix in Martin’s IG Regulator with your Reclaim. Martin’s IG Regulator is an insect growth regulator (IGR), which will disrupt the life cycle of nuisance flies and other common pests. Any crane fly larvae that come into contact with this IGR will not be able to develop into adults. Using an IGR with an adulticide like Reclaim can give you faster and more effective control because you are targeting every stage of the pest’s life cycle.

If you are looking for crane fly prevention, it is important to note that Reclaim I/T should only be used from August to February. If Reclaim I/T is applied at any time before or after this, it will only suppress the presence of crane flies rather than control them.

Step 1 – Measure and Mix Reclaim I/T and Martin’s I.G. Regulator

First, determine how much product you need by measuring the square footage of your treatment area or lawn. This can be done by measuring the width and length of your lawn, and then multipying those numbers together (length x width = square feet.)

You will mix both products together in 1 gallon sprayer to create a single finished solution. One gallon of solution is typically enough to treat 1,000 square feet. For crane fly control, you will mix Reclaim I/T with water at a rate of 0.5 ounces per 1,000 square feet. You will then add Martin’s I.G. Regulator at a rate of 1 ounce per 1,000 square feet.

To mix, begin by adding 1/4 gallon of water to the spray tank. Add the appropriate amounts of Reclaim I/T and Martin’s IGR to the spray tank, then add the remaining 3/4 gallon of water to the spray tank. Shake well to agitate.

Step 2 – Apply Mixed Solution

Once you have a thorough mix, you are ready to apply. Broadcast your spray over the turf area. Apply with a low-pressure, coarse spray. Use a fan-tip spray setting to ensure even coverage and spray at a steady pace, moving from the back of the turf area to the front.

You can also spray around cracks and crevices outside your property to prevent crane flies and other pests from entering the structure. Spray around common entry points such as doors, windows, weep holes, vents, and where plumbing and electrical wires penetrate the walls.


After eliminating crane flies, you will need to take preventative measures with your lawn in order to completely get rid of your crane fly infestation. Here are some steps to take for total elimination of crane flies.

Be sure to reapply Reclaim I/T every 90 days for continued control. Properly maintaining your area is essential to ensure that crane flies will not want to be in your lawn anymore. Be sure to keep your lawn healthy by mowing at the appropriate height, watering less frequently, removing lawn thatch, and making sure that your soil is properly aerated with adequate drainage. Like most common pests, crane flies are attracted to light. Switch outdoor light bulbs to bug bulbs that emit yellow light or turn off your outside lights at night to stop them from flying around the area.

  • Crane flies resemble mosquitoes, but are much larger and have long, thin legs.
  • Use a mixture of Reclaim I/T and Martin’s IG Regulator to control a crane fly infestation. Mix the products with water in a pump sprayer and apply to the affected areas to prevent crane flies from returning.
  • Reclaim I/T can only be applied from August-February for prevention. Application before or after these months will only suppress crane fly infestation.
  • Crane fly infestations can be avoided with proper lawn care and soil aeration.
  • Reapply Reclaim I/T every 90 days for crane fly prevention.

How to remove crane flies big

Main / Newsbeat / How to remove crane flies big

It turns out that the larval form of crane flies are the real troublemakers. The larvae, also known as leatherjackets, are major lawn and garden pests. They feed. Learn how to get rid of crane flies. For help with After they hatch, crane fly larvae eat grass crowns and roots, leaving large brown patches on lawns. As adults. If you have done a thorough inspection and determined you have enough crane fly larvae for control measures, and your lawn is suffering from crane fly damage, control is likely necessary. Natural predators and insecticides are good options for getting rid of crane fly larva.

Have a European crane fly problem you need to fix in your lawn? you think you’ re on the set of a B-movie – something like The Attack of the Giant Mosquitoes. The crane fly has different names like gallinippers, mosquito hawks and skeeter They are larger than mosquitoes and have longer legs. If you spy what looks like a giant mosquito, don’t panic – it’s only a crane fly. Though beneficial decomposers, crane flies and lawn damage also.

Adult crane flies resemble over-sized mosquitoes but are harmless and do not Attracting natural predators like birds to your yard will help you get rid of these pests. and they can be purchased online or through big box lawn care stores. Crane flies belong to the largest family of true flies in the world, the Tipulidae family, which contains over crane fly species. More than kinds of crane.

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Crane Flies

Facts, Identification & Control


What do they look like?

  • Color: Adult crane flies are black, red, or yellow in color, depending on species.
  • Size: Crane flies may be mistaken at times for mosquitoes, but they are significantly larger with extremely long legs and have elongated faces.
  • Wings: Crane fly wings may be transparent, brown, grayish-black or brownish-yellow. Some crane flies rest with extended wings, while others fold their wings flat.
  • Females: Female crane flies have extended abdomens, which house eggs and are capped with an ovipositor. Although these ovipositors appear similar to stingers, they are harmless and are only used for reproductive purposes.

How Did I Get Crane Flies?

In the fall and spring, lawns near wooded areas or open fields often have a population of crane flies. In their mature form, the adult females lay eggs in grass. Dampness and heavy rainfall increase their numbers.

How Serious Are Crane Flies?

Only in their larval state do these pests cause any real damage. After they hatch, crane fly larvae eat grass crowns and roots, leaving large brown patches on lawns. As adults, the insects are mostly a nuisance.

Mature crane flies often annoy residents when they fly into homes and bump against the walls or ceilings. Although they look like giant mosquitoes, the pests do not bite people or feed on blood. Since adult crane flies only live a few days, an entire generation may perish at the same time, creating foul-smelling piles of dead insects on sidewalks and driveways.

How Do I Get Rid of Crane Flies?

Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage crane flies and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep crane flies in their place…out of your home, or business.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

What Do They Eat?

Adults feed on nectar from flowers or other outdoor plants. Crane flies lay their eggs in the ground, where larvae feed on decaying wood and vegetation.

Where Do They Live?

Adult crane flies prefer to dwell in wet, mossy, old and open woodlands. Crane flies survive for several days, with most species living only long enough to complete the reproductive cycle.

More Information

Some Common names for crane flies include:

  • Jimmy spinners
  • Mosquito hawks
  • Mosquito eaters
  • Mosquito nippers
  • Gollywhoppers
  • Gallinippers

Although they are known as daddy long legs in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, and New Zealand, they are not at all similar to the arachnid that goes by the same name in the United States.

The Curious Case of the Cute “Face” Crane Fly

Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol

An email chirped in my inbox; “Check out the cute face on this insect we found.” I opened the attachment (yes, from a reliable source). My colleague Professor Peter Hope had taken a spectacular photograph through his microscope. The larva in question had fallen into a pit trap set by our first-year Saint Michael’s College students in Camp Johnson in Colchester.

The ‘face’ seemed to have two very circular black eyes, a downturned smile, and a wild cartoonish hairstyle sprouting from lobes radiating in five directions. My esteemed colleague, a gifted botanist, had photographed the rear end of a crane fly larva. In fairness, any reasonable person might have made this mistake, especially because the front of the insect doesn’t look like a front, its head pulled so far back into the body as to be invisible.

More than 14,000 crane fly species make up the family Tipulidae, the largest true fly family. They are often called “daddy long leg flies” because the larger species, with three-inch wing spans, sport spectacularly long legs. When I’m asked to identify a “huge mosquito,” the answer is usually “crane fly.” Smaller species, as little as an eighth of an inch in length, more easily escape notice.

Summer flying adult crane flies are fascinating, but much important biology happens during larval stages, which can be as short as six weeks or as long as five years depending on the species. Aquatic larvae continue to grow throughout the winter, feasting away in cold temperatures that put many of their fish predators in a torpor.

Students collecting river and stream samples are always impressed when their nets yield insects the size and shape of pinky fingers. Innards visible through translucent skin add to the fascination, or to the ick factor, depending on the student’s viewpoint. These are the larvae of large crane fly species, and they are often found in streambeds, where they consume submerged leaves. Smaller crane flies, in the genus Antocha, fasten silk homes to submerged rocks and are far less conspicuous. Although small, they gather and consume large quantities of organic debris, and collectively can help to improve water quality. Regardless of their food source, crane flies in or near water risk becoming fish food and are of interest to anglers who, as described in Thomas Ames’ book Fishbugs, tie “gangle-leg” flies to mimic the adult form.

Fish are by no means the only predators pursuing crane flies. Amphibians and reptiles also partake in the tipulid feast. A study in New Hampshire revealed that the adults are common menu items for little brown bats. Barn swallows and other birds also frequently snack on these insects. Crane flies are among the largest insects eaten by some species of swift (first cousins of swallows), making them a most valuable prey item during the nesting season.

Although crane fly larvae are best known as aquatic insects, there are also terrestrial species that occupy habitats from tundra to desert. For example, a type of crane fly larvae dubbed “leatherjackets” cause yellowing and bald patches in European lawns by devouring both roots and grass blades.

Unfortunately, two European leatherjacket species have been detected in central New York and in Long Island and may well munch their way through the Northeast in coming years. These new pests have also been in Ontario since the 1990s. According to Pam Charbonneau of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, starlings and skunks do additional lawn damage in search of the juicy little moveable feasts. Large numbers of the larvae are sometimes forced to the surface after heavy rain and might be a gardener’s first clue to the cause of their yellowed lawn.

Regardless of habitat or food habits, crane fly larvae tend to have distinctive “facial” features on their rear ends. (To help students instantly identify the larvae, a grad school colleague liked to say “tipulids have traces of faces round their anus”). The dark “eyes” are in fact spiracles, or the openings to the insect’s respiratory system. The mane-like lobes that surround the spiracles, or form a crown shape, are prehensile in some species and used for movement and other functions. One aquatic species uses water repellent hairs on its lobes to contain a buoyant cup of air that suspends the larva from the water surface while also facilitating respiration.

While preparing an insect ID cheat sheet, I recently asked Professor Hope to resend me the photograph as an example for students. This time the subject line read “Fly butt photograph.” It seems that Peter is learning his insects faster than I’m learning my plants.

Declan McCabe teaches biology at Saint Michael’s College. His work with student researchers on insect communities in the Champlain Basin is funded by Vermont’s EPSCoR Grant NSF EPS Award #OIA1556770 from the National Science Foundation.

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Wikijunior:Bugs/Crane Fly

What does it look like?

Crane fly perched on a limb.

The adult crane fly is large and fragile with long slender legs. Its body length varies from 1/8 inch to 3 inches. It looks a little like a huge mosquito. Its long legs make it a relatively poor flier compared to other flies. Just behind and at the base of the wings is a pair of balancing organs, called halteres.

Because of its unusual appearance, there are many different names for the crane fly. Among the names are gallinipper, gollywhopper, jimmy spinner and mosquito hawk. Its common name in the United Kingdom, and Ireland is daddy long-legs.

Scientists consider the crane fly to be a “true fly” because it has only one pair of wings.

The female abdomen ends in an ovipositor for laying eggs. The ovipositor is pointed and looks like a stinger but is completely harmless.

Where does it live?

Crane flies are found all around the world in temperate or tropical climates. At least 14,000 species of crane flies have been described worldwide. They can be found in lawns and turf, and in moist soil around ponds and streams. Compost piles provide an attractive home for crane flies. They rest on the soil surface just below the decaying vegetation.

This species has a broad range of habitats. It lives in cold arctic tundra and sub-arctic spruce forests. It likes white pine, jack pine and other evergreens in the northern Great Lakes region. East of the Mississippi River and southward along the Appalachian Mountains, it lives in forests of beech, maple, hemlock, and birch.

The crane fly usually likes moist environments such as woodlands, streams and flood plains. But some species inhabit open fields, dry rangeland, and even deserts.

What does it eat?

The crane fly is sometimes called “mosquito hawk” or “mosquito lion.” Despite this ferocious name, it does not actually eat mosquitoes. Occasionally, its larvae will feed on mosquito larvae. Crane fly larvae mostly feed on roots of forage crops, turf grasses and seedling field crops.

An adult crane fly hardly eats at all. Once in a while, it might lap up a bit of pollen or sugar-rich plant nectar.

How does it defend itself?

The adult crane fly has little in the way of defense. It falls prey to birds, bats, cats and yellow jackets. Unlike most flies, it is a weak, poor flier with a tendency to “wobble” in unpredictable patterns during flight. It can be caught without much effort.

The way its delicate legs break off, even without direct contact, may help it evade predators.

In its larval form, the crane fly is defenseless. The larvae are often eaten by birds, such as robins and starlings. In addition to birds, there are many natural enemies beneath the soil. Tiny parasites, beetles, frogs, and small mammals attack the larvae in the wintertime.

What stages of metamorphosis does it go through?

The crane fly goes through a complete metamorphosis. The adult emerges from late August to mid-September, mates and lays eggs. The female lays most of her eggs before making her first flight.

The eggs hatch quickly in the soil. As they develop, the gray-brown, worm-like larvae begin feeding on roots in moist soil. The feeding is slow in the winter, speeds up in early spring, and ends in mid-May. The larvae change to quiet pupa in July and August. The leathery, shiny pupal case is called a “leatherjacket.” The adult crane fly comes out of the ground in August and September, living just long enough to mate and lay eggs.

What special behavior does it exhibit?

Crane fly larvae are called “leatherjacket slugs” because of their movement and the way they sometimes damage plants.

The adult snow crane fly is unusual because it emerges from snow in very cold temperatures. It is frequently seen crawling sluggishly on the surface after a fresh fall of snow. Some scientists believe it lives in nests of small mammals, such as mice and chipmunks. Its natural history is still largely a mystery.

How does this bug affect people?

The crane fly is an insect that appears to be a giant mosquito, but it does not bite. It is not generally considered a pest. In certain circumstances, the crane fly can be a problem in lawns and landscape plants, but not often.

Some crane fly larva feed on roots in nurseries that sell turf and seedlings. Cereal and grain crops are sometimes damaged by crane fly larvae. Most of the time, healthy lawns and plants can tolerate their presence as long as natural enemies keep populations down.

The crane fly is an important food source for birds, fish, and other animals. As an aquatic insect it can be an indicator of good water quality. Its larvae are important decomposers that break down waste in streams and soil. This activity creates rich organic material used by other organisms. Crane fly larvae attract fish looking for food. Fishermen even design their lures to mimic crane fly larva.


AgriLIFE Extension. A field guide to common Texas insects.

See Also

  • Cranefly at Wikipedia

How to Get Rid of Mosquito Hawks

Are you finding damage on your lawn? There can be a number of different pests that are known to injure turf and one of them is known as the mosquito hawk, or crane fly to be precise.

Crane flies are known by a variety of different names that sound menacing like mosquito hawks, mosquito eaters or even super mosquitoes because of their resemblance to mosquitoes and large size. The truth is that mosquito hawks are relatively harmless in their adult stage and don’t even eat mosquitoes or anything at all for that matter.

The harm caused by mosquito hawks comes when they are in their larval stage and have hatched out of their eggs on lawns. They are known to be relentless eaters of turf, damaging plant roots and stems during this phase.

An infestation of mosquito hawk larvae can do a number on your lawn so if you discover these pests on your property, you should act quickly to eliminate them. Follow our guide below to know exactly what you should do.

Mosquito hawks are better known as crane flies. They resemble giant mosquitoes because of their delicate bodies and long, slender legs. Mosquitoes hawks start out as an egg, develop into a larva, then the pupa stage and finally grow into an adult.

Crane flies are nicknamed mosquito hawks because the larva of the crane flies feed on the larva of the mosquitoes which hinders the lifecycle of the mosquito. Most adult crane flies prefer feeding on nectar, pastures and lawns or nothing at all because they only live a few days before dying.

Most mosquito hawk damage is caused by the larvae. The larva looks like a black slug called leather jacket or grubs. It feeds on the turf, roots, grass, flowers and other plantation causing major destruction. So, even if the crane flies may not be eating the mosquitoes these insects are definitely a pest.

Where To Look

Adult mosquito hawks live for a few days, enough time to mate, lay eggs and then die. They usually lay the eggs in moist soil, marshes, creeks and ponds. Take a close look at your turf soil to see if there is larvae present. The mosquito hawk is active around spring and fall but some species may show up in the winter time.

What To Look For

Scan your yard, specifically areas where you notice damage via discolorations of the grass. We would recommend cutting a square foot sample of turf away from the areas you are observing to get a better look of the soil for any larvae. You can then determine whether you have a small or large infestation.

Solutions Pest & Lawn has professional fly control DIY products that can help you to eliminate the presence of mosquito hawks on your lawn. Our top recommendation is a treatment of Reclaim IT Insecticide.

Step 1 – Apply Reclaim IT Insecticide

Reclaim IT is a broad-spectrum insecticide that is labeled for treating mosquito hawks (crane flies). It also has a long residual effect that continues to kill for up to 90 days after application.

To apply Reclaim IT, simply mix water in a handpump sprayer with Reclaim IT at a rate of 1 oz per gallon to cover 1,000 sq. ft. Measure the square footage of your lawn to determine how much Reclaim IT you need to cover the entire area. Shake well and pump your sprayer.

Broadcast the Reclaim IT mixture over your entire yard and garden as opposed to spot treating. Reapply as needed until you see no further lawn damage or crane fly activity.

Once Mosquito hawks have been treated, you are going to want to implement some preventative measures to make sure they don’t return. Crane flies breed and thrive in damp and moist areas so make sure the soil is not too damp and there are no puddles or stagnant water. Remove all foliage, debris and all decayed leaves from the garden. Fix all the leaks from faucets and plumbing pipes. Clean the drainage system all these areas are breeding sites for the crane flies.

Some other non-chemical preventative measures include:

No lights for the mosquito hawks

Mosquito hawks are attracted to the lights at night time. Make sure the lights are turned off. If the lights are used the curtains should be drawn.

Dethatching the lawn

The muddy dense part of the solid gets pudgy for healthy growth of grass and plants. The decayed leaves and grass get moist and the plants are forced to grow over it, producing spongy plants. Thus the thatch must be removed for healthy grass to grow and to allow the soil and fertilizer to get air.

Aerating the lawn

Lawn aerating tools not only helps in thatching but also use lawn aerating tools to allow airflow to circulate through the soil, roots and turf.

Landscaping the lawn

The soil should be kept dry and should only be watered when required. Trim the grass short making it less difficult for leather jackets to hide. Applying nitrogen to the soil during summer it prevents or rather curtails the feeding of the leather jackets.

Assistance from mosquito hawk predators

Encourage sparrows and other kinds of birds to frequent your home since they will readily eat mosquito hawks and larvae if they find them when picking at soil. Bird feeders and birdbaths would be a great way to make your yard more inviting so birds can help control the crane fly larvae population.

  • Mosquito hawks are better known as crane flies and while relatively harmless as adults, their larvae is known to damage lawns.
  • A broadcast treatment of Reclaim IT insecticide on your lawn can help to kill mosquito hawk larvae and stop the damage.
  • Prevention of mosquito hawks can be done by addressing moisture issues around your lawn and keeping up with regular lawn maintenance.

Is it a giant mosquito? Will it bite me?

Here are the common insects that are not mosquitoes, but fool many people every year in the cities:

Crane Flies aka Mosquito Eaters

Size: Larger than a quarter – at least 2 inches in length

If it’s bigger than a quarter, it’s NOT a mosquito.

These long-legged insects will terrify anyone who thinks they’re bloodsuckers. Contrary to popular belief, these are not mosquitoes. Crane flies are also called “mosquito eaters” or “mosquito hawks.” But when viewed under a microscope, crane flies do not have any biting mouth parts!

They do not bite. They drink nectar for sustainance.

Crane flies usually emerge out of the soil when warm weather follows a rain event.

Next time you see a crane fly, wave it outside. Let’s save those wing-crushing blows for the real threat: mosquitoes.


Size: 1/4 inch – Approximately same size as most adult mosquitoes

Mosquitoes in LA County DO NOT SWARM. If you see small insects swarming, they’re most likely midges.

Swarmers, not biters – This small insect is often confused with mosquitoes, but does not bite. They are routinely seen hovering in swarms on warm summer evenings. Our local mosquitoes in cities do not swarm in the same spot. Fortunately, midges do not make people sick, but are considered nuisances.

In our area, control measures are only necessary in extreme cases when numbers of adult insects are high. This insect also breeds in flowing waters, and tends to prefer the shallow, nutrient rich waters found in the storm drain systems in our area.

As they are physiologically and genetically very similar to mosquitoes, the larvicidal agents used for mosquito control (insect growth regulators) also work well to control midge populations.

Mosquito Info. Learn How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes.

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Manual and Mechanical Control: Maintaining proper turf grass health may help to allow the grass to recover from damage faster. Applying fertilizers in the fall will help maintain turf quality. Increasing soil aeration and dethatching in the spring may help reduce crane fly populations. Also, because larvae thrive in moist soils, timing of irrigation may be critical during the oviposition stage of the lifecycle and throughout the fall season. Draining soils during the critical period of the life cycle may be beneficial to reduce fly populations in infested soils. Eggs that are laid at the soil surface and the larvae that emerge can be raked up and destroyed to prevent future damage from occurring.

Biological Controls: Crane flies have some natural predators, such as various species of birds or microorganisms. Beauveria bassiana is a fungus that has been seen to attack crane flies. Nematodes applied in the spring have been effective in some areas as well (mainly the Northwestern United States) in 55 degree temperatures and irrigated soil. For some fly populations, manual and biological control methods are environmentally preferred.

Chemical Controls: Chemical controls for crane flies are most effective if applied in the fall during the egg laying period, but may be used in the spring as well. Imidacloprid, trichlorfon, carbaryl and chlorpyrifos are effective against crane flies. Contact your local extension office for more information on chemical pesticides and always read the instructions on the labels. For more information on potential lawn and turf solutions:

To prevent additional spread of crane flies, movement of sod, container stock, and other turf grass materials should be limited.

New York Occurrences

European crane flies (Tipula Paludosa) were first detected in New York State in 2004. This species has been found in Erie, Monroe and Niagara counties in New York and is most prevalent in the western half of the Erie Canal corridor. A similar species of crane fly, Tipula oleracea, is also present in Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Onondaga, Oswego, Seneca, Wayne, Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York.

Other Occurrences

T. paludosa has been documented in the Northwestern United States, New York and Eastern Canada.

On the OSU campus, the damage is obvious in several areas. In one, the European crane flies migrated to the sidewalk and died – probably because they wanted to escape the overly wet soil and couldn’t find their way back, said Brian McDonald, senior research assistant in the turfgrass program. If you discover the same thing, he recommends blowing them into piles and using a shovel to scoop them up.

“They will die soon so there’s no need to spray,” McDonald said. “But I would dispose of them because they’ll begin smelling really bad once they’re dead.”

Damage by European crane flies is up this year because of a wetter-than-normal fall and spring.

Short-lived adult European crane flies – people often call them mosquito eaters, though they aren’t – emerge in August to lay eggs in lawn. The eggs hatch into the wormlike larvae or “leatherjackets,” which feed on the roots and crowns of the grass in late fall and early spring.

“To repair from the damage these insects have caused, the best thing to do is to start building your lawn back up with seed and fertilizer,” Kowalewski said. “Proper mowing, fertilization and irrigation will increase your lawn’s tolerance to the pest, preventing visible damage in the future even when pest populations are relatively high.”

Now through Memorial Day is the optimum time to broadcast seed over the bare spots. Fertilize four to six times a year in spring and fall. For additional information on how to care for your lawn, refer to Extension’s publication Practical Lawn Care for Western Oregon.

“The damage has already been done and insecticide effectiveness will be minimal on the mature insect larvae that you see now,” Kowalewski explained. “Instead wait until October and start monitoring your lawn to see if you have a sufficient number to warrant spraying.”

To check for an infestation next fall, dig up a 1-square-foot area of lawn about three inches deep and count the crane fly larvae. If there are 25 to 50 insects, you’ll want to start a control program. They’ll be small and harder to see than at this time of year, but easier to kill.

Twenty-five to 50 crane fly larvae in a 1-square-foot of lawn means you’ve got a problem.

Turning off irrigation around Labor Day will help keep populations to a minimum because that’s when the adults lay eggs in moist soils.

If you decide to use an insecticide, look for one containing bifenthrin as the active ingredient, Kowalewski said. Bifenthrin is toxic to bees, so apply in evening, night or early morning when fewer bees are foraging. As always, read and follow all the safety instructions.

If you want an organic treatment, try an insecticide made of pyrethrins. Look for those with OMRI certification. Beneficial nematodes can also be used, but research has shown they only work on about 50 percent of larvae. In some cases, that could be effective if you follow up with appropriate lawn care. For more information, on crane flies and their control, see an Ask an Expert answer and a fact sheet in the Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbook.

— Kym Pokorny

About Gardening News From the OSU Extension Service: The Extension Service provides a variety of gardening information on its website at Resources include gardening tips, videos, podcasts, monthly calendars of outdoor chores, how-to publications, and information about the Master Gardener program.

video grab

Crane Flies refer to any members of the insect family Tipulidae of the order Diptera. They look like mosquitos, with their long legs, slender abdomen and a single pair of wings. Their legs are deciduous, meaning that they are easily detached. They are poor fliers, often seen in gardens, many dangling from a single strand of spider’s web by their forelegs and waving their hind legs rhythmically whenever a breeze blows through.

video grab

Dr Leon Tzi Ming has this to say: “Yes these are craneflies alright. I have seen similar instances in parks and in the forest, but have been unable to identify them nor find out more about their unique behaviour. Shows how much we still don’t know about our local entomological diversity!”

The only reference I managed to locate is Skaife (1997), a South African publication. These are male craneflies indulging in their mating ritual to attract females – see video below.

These flies also form dense clouds dancing in the air, again in order to attract females. Once a female comes along, she will be pounced upon by the swarming males and brought to a branch or leaf where mating will take place.

Crane Flies feed on flower nectar, if they feed at all. The adults live for a very short time, to mate before dying.

YC Wee & Dr Leong Tzi Ming
16th May 2017

Skaife, S. H., 1997. African insect life. (5th Impression, revised by J. Ledger). Struik Publishers, Capetown. 279 pp.



The insects we call mosquito hawks aren’t, and their reputation is a hoax. We’ve been duped, I tell you!

The long-leggedy fly that goes bump in its flight is actually an adult crane fly as opposed to the mosquito hawk—a mosquito that kills the larvae of other mosquitoes.

The crane fly adult doesn’t eat mosquitoes or much of anything else. Though not a hoax on the same level as jokesters purposefully impersonating Sasquatch by wearing gorilla suits and leaving humongo faux footprints, we humans have embraced this hoax, taking to heart the crane fly/mosquito hawk myth. We want to believe this fragile, clumsy, goofy bug is a hero capable of silencing the incessant whine of the disease-bearing mosquito. But he isn’t, never has been, and is anatomically incapable of killing or eating a mosquito.

We’re all too personally familiar with the crane flies that arrive at the first sign of spring in clouds of large, slender flapping wings and spindly, dangly legs, bouncing like helium balloons off walls and ceilings. Even if we don’t know them as crane flies—an attribution derived from their resemblance to the birds of the same name with long legs and slow flight—we know them. Their throngs rise up and awkwardly air dance in front of and around us as we stroll through high grass.

They love light, like their moth and June bug compatriots, and hover near porch lights and windows opening into our private spaces, which they unintentionally invade as they clamor for the lights. Fragile body parts are often left behind on their careening paths as they try to maneuver through the obstacle courses our homes present.

Many of us tolerate the gentle giants and practice a “catch and release” policy, catching them gently so as not to snap off any appendages and watching them wobble off when set free outside. Others detest them for their “distractor factor”: tickling our shoulders, flying in front of our faces, and cluttering up our homes with bits and pieces of themselves lost in sloppy flight. Some of us even suffer from crane fly phobia, thinking they are monstrously inflated Frankensteinian mosquitoes that viciously pierce skin and suck blood. Ignorance isn’t always bliss.

Crane flies do look like gargantuan mosquitoes, but aren’t. Both are members of the same insect order, Diptera, classifying them as two- (di) winged (pteron) flies with two functional wings and two haltares, knobbed lesser wings that flap and act as gyroscopes to control body rotation. Maybe his haltares are too small for the crane fly’s big body, unable to provide him complete control. He can, however, stand on water without sinking because of the structure of fine waterproof hairs on his body.

The order is divided into a multitude of species of which 1,500 are in North America. Some species have spongy mouth parts to soak up liquids, and some have piercing/biting mouthparts, which is the major factor separating crane flies and their grubbier cousins the house flies from mosquitoes and horse flies. The crane fly can neither bite nor sting. The female’s abdomen ends in a pointed ovipositor looking suspiciously like a stinger, but it isn’t. No biting, no stinging, no problem.

Just as dramatically as they came, they’re gone. A crane fly’s adult life is tragically short, lasting two to fifteen days after hatching, depending on environment; however, it’s long enough to mate. A female gets a prowling male’s attention by crossing a pair of her six long, slender legs, shimmying her wings, which are larger than his, and winking a big compound eye. Flies’ compound eyes have many lenses allowing them to see in an almost 360 degree range, so the male gets an eyeful and is smitten. A man of few words, his actions speak louder than words. Soon the pair is locked in an embrace of sorts hazardous to fragile body parts.

You can tell male from female, if you’re interested. The male’s slender abdomen is rounded, while the female’s may be extended because she carries eggs, tapering into an ovipositor. The male’s flight pattern is a wonky rising and falling wave of spirals, but the female’s flight is controlled and straight. After mating, the male wanders off to die as the female carefully shoots eggs out of her ovipositor into moist soil or water, depending on the species. Exhausted, she dies too. Flight periods for each crane fly species in North America last twenty-five to thirty days with different species active at different times. When the time’s up crane flies are still with us but in another form.

Eggs hatch, becoming larvae called “leather jackets” due to their brown, smooth but tough outer cuticle. With distinctive head capsules and mouths, they make up for their parents’ lack of appetite. Most adults consume nothing; but their offspring live to eat. They devour decaying wood and vegetation, shoots, and roots below ground. They will ooze out at night to eat grass, flowers, fruits, and veggies.

Our native crane larvae cause only minor damage, but the European crane fly that invaded our continent in the 1950s now lives in the northwestern U.S. and is a significant, formidable pest that destroys crop and grass roots. Over winter, eating ceases as overfed larvae doze. Between winter and spring, they find protected places and weave cocoons around themselves like do-it-yourself mummies that morph into the slender adult crane flies just in time for spring.

So what’s the point, the raison d’être, of these flies that don’t eat mosquitoes? You could ask the same about us, but that’s another issue. Crane flies play an environmentally important role. Their larvae decompose organic litter lying around on the bottom of streams and on forest floors, helping enrich the soil and enhancing habitats of other creatures. They’re also meals for birds, reptiles, amphibians, other insects, and fish. Because fish love them (particularly trout), they’re good fishing bait and are models for numerous artificial lures, thus enhancing the pleasure of sporty fishermen. They don’t bite, draw blood, or sting. They may be bothersome due to swarming numbers, but they’re in evidence for so little time because their lives fly by so swiftly. So what’s the point of not wanting them to exist?

When the larvae produced by the last swarm of crane flies mature and you become weary of dodging them, when a silky wing brushes your skin, try a little tenderness. It’s good for your karma if nothing more.

Lucile isn’t ashamed to admit that she actually likes crane flies for their gentle absurdity and does practice “catch and release” in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She’s also not ashamed to admit she has a personal vendetta against their cousins, the houseflies, and keeps a seasonal body count of those thwacked with her lethal dishtowels.

Now meet the Cicada Killer Wasp: “After being buried for their youth, males know they are but flashes in the pan with four to six ephemeral weeks to attract mates.”

Or the nasty Apple Snail: “Apple snails eat the vegetation until there is no more; then, with a lung that enables them to breathe out of the water, they move onto dry ground to continue feeding.”

Or the Black Widow Spider, who isn’t the uninhibited sexual cannibal she’s rumored to be.

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