Larger than mosquitoes, but not even half as dangerous as them, crane flies worry farmers all over North America. Not just in North America, but crane flies are present all over the globe.
And they can be detrimental to your garden and yard.
So what do crane flies eat? An adult crane fly doesn’t really feed on anything after reaching adulthood. They grow harmless during this stage and don’t possess any mouthparts to suck blood or eat with.
However, it is not the adult form, but the larval form of crane flies that can be considered the real troublemaker. The larvae for crane flies are also known as leatherjackets and are a major threat to your garden and lawn.
Their larvae feed on the roots and stems just below the surface and can destroy your plantations and flowers.
First, a story about crane flies…
I remember a few years ago I had a client who had a bad crane fly infestation in their garden and backyard area.
The larvae for the crane flies were feeding on the roots and stems just below the surface, and were starting to destroy their plantations and flowers.
The client was really worried, as they didn’t know what to do.
I advised them to start by removing any potential food sources for the crane flies. This included things like damp leaves, grass clippings, and other organic matter.
I also recommended that they treat the affected areas with an insecticide designed to kill crane fly larvae.
After following my advice, the client was able to get rid of the crane fly infestation and save their garden.
So what does a crane fly actually eat?
Adult crane flies do not really feed on anything. Out of their four life stages, the larva is the only form where they eat and can pose a danger to your plantation.
The larva feeds on the roots of grass and other plants. The larva is always able to find abundant sources of food while growing up because adult crane flies are careful to deposit their larvae in soil with moisture and healthy vegetation around.
Your yards can be potential breeding grounds for crane flies because of their natural instinct to lay down their eggs in moisturized soil.
These crane flies usually inhabit areas around different states with mild summers and winters. The rainforests in the Pacific Northwest of the United States are also host to these.
So can crane flies damage my garden?
They can, yes.
Crane flies look a lot like giant mosquitoes, and although they don’t bite humans, they can do a lot of damage to your garden. The adults only live for a few days, but during that time they lay their eggs in damp soil.
The larvae that hatch from the eggs are known as leatherjackets, and they voraciously feed on the roots of grasses and other plants. This can lead to dead patches in your lawn, and it can also make it more difficult for new seedlings to take root.
In addition, leatherjackets are a favourite food source for many animals, including badgers, hedgehogs and certain types of birds. As a result, an infestation of crane flies can quickly disrupt the local ecosystem.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent them from taking over your garden. For example, keeping your lawn short will make it less attractive to adult crane flies, and removing any debris from your garden will eliminate potential breeding sites.
Is there something specific that attracts crane flies to your yard?
While they do bear a passing resemblance to their blood-sucking cousins, crane flies are harmless and pose no threat to humans or animals. So, what attracts these pests to your yard?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Crane flies are attracted to a variety of factors, including moisture, heat, and light. They are also drawn to areas with high levels of carbon dioxide, such as wooded areas or near ponds.
As a result, it can be difficult to deter them from your property. The best course of action is to simply wait for them to move on. Eventually, they will tire of your yard and move on in search of more ideal conditions.
Where are crane flies found?
Crane flies are found in a variety of habitats all over the world. Although they are most commonly associated with wetlands, they can also be found in woodlands, grasslands, and even deserts. In terms of geographical distribution, crane flies can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
In terms of their biology, crane flies are interesting creatures. For example, they are the only known insects that are capable of floating on water for extended periods of time. They are also known for their extremely long legs, which can be up to six times the length of their bodies.
Although crane flies may seem like strange and unsettling creatures, they play an important role in many ecosystems. For example, they are a key food source for many types of fish, birds, and bats.
In addition, their larvae help to break down organic matter and improve soil quality. As a result, crane flies play a vital role in the health of many different types of ecosystems.
What do crane flies look like?
The European crane fly can resemble a mosquito in appearance. The wings and the upper body are shaped exactly like a mosquito’s, leading to the uncanny resemblance.
However, the lower body of a crane fly is generally much larger. The total wingspan of crane flies can be over 2.5 inches when measured.
Crane flies happen to be gray, brown, red, or yellow in color.
Female crane flies look more intimidating than male crane flies because they have an ovipositor that deeply resembles a stinger on their back. However, this stinger doesn’t actually sting and is only used for laying eggs on the ground.
The confusion between crane flies and mosquitoes is owed to their size and shape. There is no other similarity between the two, as crane flies do not bite people and suck on their blood.
They might be called mosquito wasps and mosquito hawks in some places, but crane flies don’t prey on mosquitoes either.
Crane fly life cycle
The lifecycle of a typical crane fly depends on four different stages. These stages include the egg, the larval, the pupal, and the stage of adulthood.
Unlike some other flies, adult crane flies happen to have an extremely short-lived lifespan.
As soon as crane flies come out of their pupal stage, they indulge in laying eggs and mating. Males and females mate together to form new eggs.
As we already know, female crane flies have an ovipositor on their backs, which is used for storing and depositing eggs. The female crane fly then lays eggs around the soil in your yard or garden.
The eggs are black in color and are laid around water surfaces, on wet or dry land, or in algae.
A single female crane fly has the ability to lay over 2 to 300 eggs during its lifespan. The eggs hatch by themselves within a period of one to two weeks, after which the larvae are formed.
The larva looks like a legless worm, with a grayish-brown and cylindrical body. The larva has a body that tapers towards its head.
The body might also contain different welts, small spots, and other projections across its surface. The larvae can develop a sturdier outer covering in some species.
The larvae are known to be voracious eaters, which is why they feed on the stems and roots of your plants and vegetation. They can damage plants, leading to the need to get rid of them from your property.
The larval stage is perhaps the most dangerous of all crane fly stages for you. This is the only stage during which crane flies pose an immediate danger, and this happens to last the longest.
The larval stage can last from two weeks to over two months. Once the crane flies start pupating, they can turn into proper flies within 2 weeks’ time.
After this, adult crane flies live a relatively harmless life and mate with other crane flies to deposit and lay eggs. Their adult life is short-lived as they die within a few days after pupating.
Where do crane flies live?
Crane flies are typically found within moist and vegetative habitats. This leads us to understand what crane flies can be attracted to.
They are first attracted to water bodies, where they find good soil to lay their larvae. If water bodies aren’t available, they go for moist soil near your yard or garden to find a good spot to deposit their eggs.
This forms a chain where these flies eventually take over your property, with their larvae feeding on the stems and roots of your plants.
Some species of crane flies are also found hovering around streams, feeding on the small aquatic insects present near water bodies. They can also feed on decaying plants near the surface.
Crane flies are known to survive best during the mild winters and cool summers. Adult crane flies usually emerge during late spring from pastures and greener lawns.
Why do I have crane flies?
As we know by now, crane flies like vegetative, moist, and outdoor habitats. They can be seen flying around your home, near window screens and external walls.
Crane flies look for decent spaces to lay their eggs so that when the larva emerges, it is not starved for options to eat. Once the larva emerges, it starts feeding on the roots and stems of plants, vegetation, decaying organic matter, and decaying wood around the soil.
Some larvae can also eat invertebrates, small aquatic insects, and other decaying plants around streams. You have crane flies because of your yard or garden.
If you have a flourishing garden or yard, crane flies would be the first to frequent the place for their breeding grounds. The real damage begins once they lay eggs, which are transferred into a larva that feeds on your plant stems and roots.
Adult crane flies have a short lifespan and do not feed on anything. Adult crane flies live just enough to mate with the opposite gender and reproduce/deposit eggs.
Should you be worried about crane flies?
Well for starters, adult crane flies do not bite or sting pets, livestock, or humans. Unlike other mosquitoes or even horse flies, they do not pose damage to the living and moving forms of life around us.
However, the voracious nature of the larvae from crane flies can damage your grass and can create patches of uneven grass.
Hatched larvae can also cause damage to the roots and stems of your plants. Additionally, they attract raccoons, skunks, and birds, which might come and dig up your ground to feed on these crane flies.
To eliminate the dangers of a crane fly infestation, you should focus on the larvae rather than on the adult form. The larvae residing under the soil poses potential damage to your property and should be dealt with accordingly.
How to get rid of crane flies
The insecticides would kill the larvae and would stop them from using your soil and plants as breeding grounds. Once the larvae are killed, you can stop the infestation, because adult crane flies do not live for that long.
Secondly, you can allow nature to play its role by inviting natural predators to come and pick on the larvae. You can invite birds by putting water and seeds in your yard.
Birds might come attracted by them but would soon recognize the gold mine of larvae on the soil. They will hence come and pick them up, eventually leading to a complete end to the infestation.
You can also introduce other animals like toads, snakes, and rats that would feed on the crane fly larvae.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to get rid of the larvae to end the crane fly infestation. Once the larvae are gone, the adult crane flies would not have anything to eat and would eventually die.