They're everywhere. They're zigzagging around your yard, bumping into walls and windows, landing on your screen door and fence, and clustering on your porch lights, all the while searching for mates. They're in your garden, home and garage. They're in your office. They're in your car. They're everywhere.
There are tons of these spring insects this year. Why so many?
"Perhaps because of the previous years of drought, followed by good rainfall this winter, we have had a remarkable emergence of crane flies in the Central Valley, with unusually large numbers emerging over the past month or so," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Writing in the current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter, Kimsey says that they're often falsely called mosquito hawks or mosquito eaters, but 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."
With their long, stilt-like legs dangling, they look goofy when they fly. In fact, they're nicknamed "daddy long legs." They're not to be confused with arachnids; crane flies are members of the family Tipulidae of the order Diptera (flies).
Crane fly larvae, known commonly as leatherjackets, eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter. Who knows--as larvae they may also scoop up a few mosquito eggs if they're in their habitat.
Adults are short lived and "generally live only a few days," Kimsey says.
Yes, and some of them may live only a matter of hours or minutes--especially when they're snared in a spider web.
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!
He didn't bring her flowers.
They were already sharing a sunflower leaf.
He didn't bring her candy.
They'd already dined on nectar.
It was Labor Day and the two crane flies looked quite friendly in our bee friendly garden.
More than friendly.
I think they were in love.
Crane flies, also known as mosquito hawks, look like Texas-sized mosquitoes. "Big 'uns," as my Texas-born grandmother used to say. But these insects won't bite you or suck your blood. They're long-legged, two-winged insects with such slender abs that their "to do" list probably includes daily workouts at the gym. They're members of the family Tipulidae (suborder Nematocera, order Diptera).
Despite their name, mosquito hawks don't eat skeeters. They just look like they might.
They're basically quite harmless. The larvae feed on plant roots, sometimes causing problems in nurseries. The adults are a hot menu item ("the daily special") for birds, fish and other animals. Bring 'em on!
What's good about the mosquito hawk are its nicknames: gallinipper, jimmy spinner, skeeter eater, skeeter lion, leatherjackets (referring to the tough brown skin of the larvae), daddy long-legs (in Canada and Ireland), doizabizzler and gollywhopper.
Gollywhopper? You can't say that without smiling.
You just can't.