Crane Flies

Posted: April 30th, 2010 under Activities, photography, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , ,

Crane flies are odd insects with long legs relative to their body size–they’re mistaken sometimes for giant mosquitos, which they aren’t.   For such delicate looking creatures, they’re important in the ecosystem:  crane fly larvae feed mostly on fungi, decaying organic matters, sometimes on plant rootlets–some are predatory.   The adults are food for birds.  There are roughly 1600 species of these guys north of Mexico.

Here’s one of our craneflies I’ve seen just about every year:

Notice the pointed abdomen tip and the stripes on the abdomen (and, I think, thorax, but I’m not positive.  It flew before I could get more pictures.)  The body’s maybe an inch long, but I think less.  [Edit:   Info from BugGuide: the pointed abdomen tip means it’s a female]

Much larger was the crane fly that landed on the upper glass pane of the storm door in the kitchen:

I think it might be Holorusia rubiginosa but I haven’t asked for help on its ID yet.  The bright outdoor light made it impossible to get ventral details, and shooting it from the outside of the door was hampered by the bright reflections.  So here’s the best I could do:

This part-lateral view was taken from inside, so it’s still in silhouette, but it does show the shape of the head, which reminds me of some genera in Neuroptera  (though crane flies are in their own family, Tipulidae.)

From outside the door, none of the straight dorsal shots came out (could not get a clear focus and a fast enough shutter speed before it flew away) but I did get this lateral–not good but what there is–showing the color and (in the large version) the brilliant green eyes.

It is oversharped a little so that the markings on the abdomen show at least a little.  Note the very different end of the abdomen…although for all I know that’s a sex characteristic.   [Edit:  Info from–yes,  and this is a male.]  The body was easily two inches, maybe a little more, and the “legspan” on the glass (legs not fully extended) about five inches.

With the number of crane fly species, and the difficulty of IDing them, I may never find out exactly what these two are–but now they’re documented for the list.


  • Comment by Abigail Miller — April 30, 2010 @ 3:12 pm


    Wow, that thing’s really huge! I’ve only ever seen the 1-inch body ones.

    I really like the effect of the straight ventral through-the-glass shot, even though the bug is just a silhouette.

  • Comment by Doranna — April 30, 2010 @ 5:15 pm


    I learned them as “mosquito hawks,” too–always thought they ate mosquitoes. Not so, it sounds like?

  • Comment by elizabeth — April 30, 2010 @ 5:32 pm


    Yeah, it’s a common name for them, but apparently because they look like really big mosquitoes.

    None of my sources say they eat mosquitoes. But I’m still learning.

  • Comment by Doranna — April 30, 2010 @ 7:07 pm


    Boy, I sure am glad I read this post, then!

  • Comment by elizabeth — April 30, 2010 @ 9:42 pm


    If you look at a lot of insect sites, it’s mostly concerned with the larvae of some of them eating sod roots. Not all, or even most, but some…some people only care about insects as pests.

  • Comment by Joy K. — May 2, 2010 @ 5:40 pm


    When my cat was younger and less frail, crane flies were her favorite snack-toy.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 2, 2010 @ 6:01 pm


    They’re not very evasive fliers, that’s for sure (though they do fly a lot better than I do…)

  • Comment by Martin LaBar — May 6, 2010 @ 5:24 am


    “beauty” is a good tag for these insects.

  • Comment by Zilvinas Juraska — February 22, 2011 @ 9:40 am


    Hola! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the great work!

  • Comment by Normand Kalland — October 9, 2013 @ 6:03 am


    Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any tips and hints for novice blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 11, 2013 @ 10:48 am


    I don’t check the comments here as often as I do at the more active blogs. After a time, comments sitting in the moderation stack may slip away.

    Blog writing, like any writing, is learned by reading a lot and writing a lot and seeing what reactions you get from readers. Write what you care about, keep it simple (at first, anyway), don’t try to game the system (it changes too fast.) Ask yourself why you’re blogging (to entertain? to educate? to attract friends?) and look at your blog posts in light of what you want to accomplish. Blogging isn’t in my main form of writing, so I had a learning curve even though I have written a lot. But basically, it’s writing. Just do it, have fun with it, learn from reactions.

    I’m not a writing instructor, so I’m not the right person to teach anyone to write.

    Good luck.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment