They're out there, and you don't have to crane your neck to see them.
Some folks mistakenly call them "mosquito hawks" or "mosquito eaters," but they are neither. They are crane flies, members of the family Tipulidae of the order Diptera (flies).
We've been seeing the slender, gangly, goofy-looking insects, Tipula oleracea, bump into walls and flower pots. This one (below) glided into the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, and just remained there for several minutes.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, emphasizes that they don't eat mosquitoes. "In fact, adult crane flies generally don't eat at all," she points out. "Their entire brief adult lives are spent searching for mates and laying eggs." Crane flies are attracted to lights at night and you may find them around your porch light.
"Adult crane flies emerge from the soil beneath turfgrass, pastures and other grassy areas in late summer and fall," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.. "The adults have very long legs and resemble large mosquitoes. Females mate and lay eggs in grass within 24 hours of emerging. Eggs hatch into small, brown, wormlike larvae that have very tough skin and are commonly referred to as leatherjackets. The leatherjackets feed on the roots and crowns of clover and grass plants during the fall. They spend the winter as larvae in the soil; when the weather warms in spring, they resume feeding. During the day larvae mostly stay underground, but on damp, warm nights they come to the surface to feed on the aboveground parts of many plants. When mature, the larvae are about about 1 to 1½ inch long. Around mid-May they enter a nonfeeding pupal stage and remain just below the soil surface. In late summer, pupae wriggle to the surface and the adults emerge. There is one generation a year."
This one (below) didn't find a mate on the tower of jewels but it did find a towering view. The plant can reach 10 feet in height.
Some folks call them "mosquito hawks" or "skeeter eaters" or "blood suckers."
They're not. None of the above. Crane flies, in the family Tipulidae, don't prey on mosquitoes and they don't suck blood.
These slender, long-legged insects remind us of runway models. Thin. Demure. Fragile.
Any similarity, though, ends when you see them fly. They fly rather clumsily, wobbly even.
You've probably seen them around your home, garden or business office. If you do, they're easy to photograph!
The crane fly is as long-legged and slender as a runway model, but as gangly as a teenager.
The insect, from the family Tipulidae, is sometimes called daddy long-legs (not!) or a skeeter eater (not!).
They don't eat mosquitoes and they don't bite. The adults sip nectar. Sometimes when you head out to the garden in the early morning, you'll find them resting on a plant--probably been there all night.
This one (below) was clutching salvia and waiting for a little warmth from the morning sun.
It looks like a giant mosquito.
But it isn't.
It's a crane fly (family Tipulidae), also known as a "mosquito hawk."
It's a slender, long-legged insect that cats like to target. Our cat, Xena the Warrior Princess, loves to bat them out of the air--and then look around for more.
Most crane flies "feed on decaying organic matter, but some are predaceous or feed on living plants such as mosses," according to entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their guidebook, California Insects.
Don't worry. This gangly mosquito-like insect won't feed on you. You're safe.
For my New Year's resolution, I resolve to turn over a new leaf.
Oh, sure, most folks resolve to eat less, exercise more, drink less, read more, stress less, save more, gripe less, and volunteer more.
I'm turning over a new leaf.
You never know what kind of insect you'll find there or what kind of insect will "pose" for you.
Happy New Year! (And may one of your resolutions involve "turning over a new leaf.")