Ugly Grubs and Pesky Flies

As long as I can remember, whenever I saw a fly with really long legs, I assumed it was a male mosquito. I’m not sure if someone told me that, or if I assumed it based on some description I read. Either way, I was wrong. Most of the time, what I have been swatting at, ushering out of the house, or lifting my cat to play with, were Crane Flies.

That brings me to Species of the Week:

Crane Flies:  Tipulidae spp.

Image

Looking kind of like a cross between a daddy longlegs and a damselfly, huge armies of these insects invade my yard every year. (Indeed, in the UK and some of the Maritimes, they actually refer to them as daddy longlegs. Confusing? Yes.) They seem to like windows and corners, and very much appreciated (and took over) the little teepee we erected for my kids this year. I pulled back the sheet looking for something to photograph, and got swarmed. They also like grass, and we often find them tickling our ankles as we cross the lawn.

They do look a bit like giant mosquitoes, but mosquitoes don’t get this large (1.5-2.5 cm in length). They don’t bite though, and they are really easy to catch. They fly around in slow, hovering patterns, and often linger in one spot. They have two narrow wings and long thin legs. The European Cranefly was introduced from Eurasia, and has only become common here in Southern Ontario for the past 20 years or so. (Surprise, surprise.)

The larval form is called a Leatherjacket. I’d get you a picture if it was the right season (we also – as logic would dictate – have those in abundance in the spring). Please accept this link to a far superior image link as a substitute. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tipula_leatherjacket_Emelt.jpg  The presence of these ugly little monsters (and you have to admit, they are seriously ugly) may help explain why our lawn always looks so miserable. I’ve actually been wondering if they provided inspiration to the creators of the movie “Tremors.”  Leatherjackets are known turf destroyers, as they feed on the roots of grass plants.  

I’m starting to notice a pattern here. All of the species that I have been selecting for Species of the Week are ones that I see over and over and want to be able to identify given the frequency of encounters. At the same time, I keep finding out that most of them are invasive and/or introduced species. Coincidence? Definitely not. Sad story? Definitely. It’s hard to know what our ecosystem should have looked like.

Sources:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/13-023.htm

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Posted on September 3, 2013, in Species of the week, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I always thought these guys ate mosquitos. When one flies into the house, I just grab him lightly and release him back outside. I also thought those grubs were a different kind of fly larvae (the name escapes me). I guess you learn something (or two) every day!

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