Crane flies have emerged in large numbers this Spring in Texas, sparkled by the mild winter followed by rainy season. Despite their misnomer as mosquitoes, these insects do not bite nor feed on mosquitoes. Known as mosquito hawks or skeeter eaters, crane flies are a benign member of the Tipulidae family, which belongs to the true-fly order or Diptera, an insect class that includes mosquitoes and robber flies. The creatures are often one of the first indications that Winter is fading, and Spring is arriving in Texas.
Crane flies specialize in warmer climates and help with pollination by feeding on sweet nectar from plants. Their gentle nature attracts insectivores, including swallows, armadillos, and frogs. The life cycle of the insects tends to be short, usually one to two weeks, with a majority lived in the larval stage. As larvae, crane flies are sheltered from the weather and can feed for up to three years on deteriorating organic materials.
Although the bulky-legged insects are not harmful, much like many insects, they are attracted to lights and may land on front porches and slip indoors when doors or windows are open, with their stumbling flights. To keep these critters outside, it is advisable to have good-quality window screens and ensure the absence of openings in doors and windows.
Much to the humor of Texans, Bryant McDowell, the extension program specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife, has referred to them as Texas groundhogs, forecasting the arrival of warmer weather. He describes crane flies as delicate, fragile insects that inflict no harm. The insects’ fragility may also contribute to their prevalence in Texas, emerging during low predator periods. McDowell compares their flight patterns to a “robot vacuum of the insect world” because they fly erratically, hitting objects in their paths and abruptly changing their direction.
Crane flies have a short life cycle, during which they mature, mate, and die. Although false fears of mosquito bites arise during the emergence of crane flies, they serve as a crucial food source for insectivores. Crane flies’ presence in Texas typically diminishes when temperatures decline in the forthcoming fall.
The Dallas Morning News provided supplemental information for this account.