Bug News

Bug News

Observations, factoids, funny clips, and lots of bugs and other nature related images.

6-Minute Read

Height: About 3 inches.

Body type: Long and lean.

Eye color: Variable depending on light.

Personality: Carefree, but a bit klutzy and bumbling – I’ve already lost one leg to a spider web.

Hobbies: Flying around lights in the middle of the night.

Ideal date: Baby making -without getting eaten by a bird…

While this profile doesn’t sound particularly appealing to me, apparently it worked just fine for the couple of Crane Flies in the photo. Yes, strange looking, long-legged things are actually a type of fly. Not a spider (six legs if they haven’t lost any, not eight like spiders have). And it’s not a giant mosquito either (you can breathe again now – you’re welcome).

Crane Fly, Tipula sp., chilling on a leaf

Crane Fly, Tipula sp., chilling on a leaf

Crane Flies (family = Tipulidae), frequently called Mosquito Hawks, Gollywhoppers, Skeeter Eaters, Jenny Longlegs, or Daddy Longlegs, were always called Mosquito Catchers in my house growing up. Although I can certainly see where the name Daddy Longlegs would be morphologically appropriate, in our house, the name Daddy Longlegs was always reserved for the Harvestmen that seemed to be everywhere (an eight-legged type non-spider arachnid in the order Opiliones). Despite the implications of a name like Mosquito Catcher, Crane Flies actually don’t catch, kill, or eat mosquitoes. Most of the adult flies (like in the pictures) don’t even have the mouthparts necessary to eat something. Funny the critter names and things you are told as a child that you later find out are totally inaccurate, lol. To be fair though, I was never afraid of the “Mosquito Catchers” that always got in the house, since I thought they were eating our mosquitoes…

Crane Fly convinced there are females on the other side of my window…

Crane Fly convinced there are females on the other side of my window…

Instead of hunting mosquitoes, the vast majority of Crane Flies are actually decomposers. They eat a variety of decomposing organic matter, algae, and other super tiny things. While a few species (introduced from Europe) can be pests in certain areas feeding on the roots of agricultural crops, ornamentals, or turf grass, most species are considered beneficial since they break down decomposing matter and release nutrients back into the system providing an essential ecosystem service. It’s the grub-like larvae (=baby flies) that do all the decomposing and eating though. The adults (=flies) only live for maybe a week or two and their sole purpose is to find a mate and make more baby Crane Flies. The adults may take a bit of flower nectar occasionally for a quick extra burst of energy, or get distracted by bright nighttime lights that people often leave on, but they have a mission, and not a lot of time to complete it.

Love found! Crane Flies mating in the grass

Love found! Crane Flies mating in the grass

There are more that 570 different species of Crane Fly found throughout North America, and more than 4,000 species worldwide. They typically live in habitats that have moist or wet conditions for at least part of the year, as these areas are more likely to have nice rich decaying matter to feed their babies. Aquatic or semi-aquatic type habitats like streams and ponds are also fair game to set up house (or to deposit eggs – they don’t actually make any kind of houses). While I can tell the Crane Flies in these photos are most likely in the genus Tipula, a species level identification to figure out which of the hundreds of species it could be would unfortunately require a fly taxonomic specialist (=Dipterist) to examine the flies under a microscope. We will just assume these are some of the native decomposer species, as they most likely are :)

Crane Fly trying to figure out the best place to look for a mate…

Crane Fly trying to figure out the best place to look for a mate…

Next time you see one of these large, gangly, and most awkward critters, just remember they are on a mission of love - and completely harmless… So go ahead and release the lost ones distracted by the porch lights back outside. Even if they aren’t helping reduce the mosquito population like many of us have been incorrectly told, they are likely improving your soil and the larger environment. Just be careful of their long legs – dropping legs that get caught by predators is one of their few defenses. And we don’t want to make it any harder for them to find a Mrs or Mr Daddy Longlegs….

To read more about Crane Flies, check out:

🦋✨💖 Thank you sponsors! 💕✨🦋

Thank you to all our wonderful patrons and sponsors - we truly appreciate your support.

Special thanks to this month’s Super Great Nature Lover Patron level sponsor:

Deana Crumbling

We Stand with Ukraine

Our hearts go out to those suffering from the Russian-Ukraine war.

If you are in a position to do so, please consider helping those in Ukraine:

Questions? Comments? Corrections?

I’d love to know what you thought and what’s on your mind. Email it to me at erika@bug.news or enter it into the box below. I’ll do everything I can to answer your questions, address your comments, and keep the stories updated :)
We’re also on Facebook so you can leave a comment or start a discussion there too if you prefer that medium…

Join the email list

Want Bug News stories & announcements sent to your inbox? Never miss a story: Join the Bug News email list here or email me at Erika@bug.news with “Join email list” in the subject line.

Support the blog

Like my blog? Want to help keep the new content coming and the pages ad free? Consider becoming one of my Patreon Patrons! Any amount, big or small, helps me spend more time creating and less time trying to keep the lights on. Patreon Patrons can also get exclusive access to monthly newsletters, story sneak peeks, story requests, and more! Please consider supporting the blog and check out my Patreon Patron support page.

Ok, you say, but what is this Patreon thing you are talking about? Patreon is a service that helps connect content creators with folks who want to help support creative endeavors. Patreon is setup to be able to safely handle the financial side of transactions so both the patron and the creator can be confident their information is secure. You can read more about what Patreon is HERE.

Thank you!!

Not interested in a Patreon monthly subscription? Prefer to make a one-time contribution? We have that option too! Help support the blog with a one-time donation through PayPal instead! Thank you!!

Printed Newsletters

Want Bug News in print? We’ve got you covered :)

Our Bug News Newsletters are now in print and available on Amazon.com:

Gifts & Swag Galore

Now you can get prints of some of our favorite critters on Red Bubble! Everything from tote bags and pillows, to greeting cards and note books, to t-shirts and mugs!

Check out it out HERE. The store is organized by design, so pick a critter picture to see all the gift options :)

Here are just a few examples:

And so much more! Check out all the bug patterns HERE.

Recent Posts

Blog Topics

Quick Links

Support Bug News!
There are many ways you can help support the blog:

One time donation
Patreon Subscription
Bug Jewelry
Bug Swag

Email List
Want stay up to date? Sign up for our free email list for new story announcements and the occasional blog update:

Email Signup

Written by an entomologist for the enjoyment of all... The goal is to post 1 new story every week or so. Stay tuned!