Attack of the Killer Mosquitoes! (Or Not?)

Many of you have probably seen what look like huge mosquitoes bouncing around in your house lately- dangerous, right? Wrong! These leggy critters are not a type of mosquito at all. They’re a different group of flies commonly called crane flies or mosquito hawks.

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crane fly larva

They don’t eat mosquitoes, nor do they bite people for blood as some mosquitoes do. In fact, adult crane flies eat very little at all. They hatch out of eggs as larva, just like butterflies. The larva live in streams or in moist soil, which is probably why we’re seeing a lot of them this year. Larva can damage turf and lawns in some parts of the world, but in S. California they don’t pose a major agricultural or economic problem.

After spending a few weeks underground getting nice and plump, they pupate and emerge as the familiar large fly in the picture above. And please don’t worry about them hurting you- it is physically impossible for them to bite or sting people. Adult crane flies don’t feed very much in the handful of days they spend as adults, though some may drink nectar from flowers or take in water with a spongy mouthpart.

There are about 15,000 different species of crane flies in the world, and they play a valuable part in the ecology and food chain. They range from a couple of millimeters to over 10 inches across. They’re a major source of food for birds and fish, and help aerate and enrich our soil.  So the next time you see one in your house, no need to get the rolled-up newspaper!

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