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Crane fly

Crane fly known as the European cranefly in the Pacific Northwest, Tipula paludosa Meigan, is an introduced exotic pest first found in the region in 1965 in British Columbia, Canada. Since then, it has gradually spread into Washington State and parts of Western Oregon and has become the most serious economic pest of lawns, pastures and hayfields in the northwest

Crane fly

Crane fly

People think these flies look like Texas-sized mosquitoes, and they have also wrongly been called "mosquito hawks." Crane flies are large tan-colored fragile flies with long legs. Adults and larvae do not feed on mosquitoes. Larval forms of crane flies are grey-brown cylindrical larvae which may bear fleshy lobes on the end. Occasionally, the segments towards the end of the body can be greatly expanded.

Crane Flies grow up to 2 1/2 inches long, with a wingspan of three inches. They are grayish-brown and slender. Their legs are super-thin and long. They are usually about twice as long as their bodies.Females have a sharp ovipositor (egg-laying organ) on the tip of their abdomen.

Crane fly live near water.Some species of Crane Fly live in the water for part of their lives.Crane Fly larvae are worm-like and grayish, brownish, or cream-colored. They can be anywhere from 1/2 inch to three inches in length.The larvae of the aquatic species (ones that live in water) have several spiracles on the end which look like tentacles. The larva will stick this end out of the water to breathe air.

Crane fly larvae feed on the roots of grasses. Usually very little damage is done as plants have a remarkable ability to compensate for minor root damage. However, when populations are high (estimated to be about 25-30 larvae per square foot) damage to turf areas can be extensive.The adult crane fly is found in the late summer and early fall. It has long legs and looks very much like a large mosquito (body alone is about 1" long). One common name for these insects is "mosquito-hawk". The adults are harmless. They do not bite nor do they attack mosquitos. They are very common at night around lights.

Crane fly

Crane fly

Larvae, sometimes called "leather jackets," live in the soil. Larvae hatch from eggs laid in the late summer. They feed during the fall and into the spring of the following year. They stop feeding in May. Damage generally starts to be noticeable during the spring, caused by feeding that occurred the previous fall and winter. Damage can also occur when birds scratch at the lawn surface attracted to larvae. Birds are important predators of crane fly larvae and great care should be taken not to poison birds if insecticides are used.

Life Cycle : Female Crane Flies lay eggs in water or in moist soil near the water. If a Crane Fly lays them in water, she will stick the tip of her abodmen under the surface and the eggs will sink to the bottom. If a Crane Fly lays her eggs in soil, she uses her ovipositor to inject them below the soil surface.The larvae of aquatic species also called "water worms" will live most of their lives on the bottom of the stream or lake under dead leaves or other debris. Larvae of terrestrial (land) species, live in mud or wet moss near the water.All Crane Fly larvae eat decaying plants, dead leaves, fungi, or roots of plants.

When larvae are full grown, they will crawl from the water and burrow into mud or soil. Terrestrial species are already there.Next, they will become pupae (resting stage) where they will slowly change into adult Crane Flies. Usually, they will spend the winter in the mud before they hatch the following Spring.Large amounts of Crane Flies hatch at the same time, and swarms of males "dance" above treetops looking for females.

Crane Flies have many predators. Larvae and pupae are dug up out of the mud by skunks and moles. Aquatic larvae are also eaten by fish, turtles, and other underwater predators.Adult Crane Flies are eaten by birds and bats.



Damages: Impact reported in NY has taken the form of scalping damage to golf course greens, root-feeding injury to home lawns, turf disruption due to the activities of skunks searching for larvae, and swarms of adults reported as nuisance problems by home owners in suburban settings. Direct injury to turf is expressed as yellowing spots and bare patches. In the worse case scenario, this can impact entire home lawns as experienced in some areas of Ontario.

This injury is caused by disruption of the rooting zone, similar to white grub damage, and by foliar feeding on crowns and leaf blades, similar to black cutworm damage. Early to mid-May is when injury is most likely to be expressed by Crane fly because large larvae are feeding rapidly as they approach the end of development. The season of most likely injury due to T. oleracea has not yet been established.

but in early 2006 damage on greens was linked to the presence of T. oleracea larvae that had taken refuge in aeration holes over the winter or in early spring. An area the size of a quarter was scalped around entry holes. Injury is most easily confirmed by searching for larvae. Birds are major predators, and the peck-holes from foraging crows and other species are easily detected, and by themselves can be troublesome in high maintenance turf areas such as golf course greens.



Management: Select four areas in your lawn, these can be randomly made or you can look for suspicious signs of damage. If you choose to look at damaged areas, sample on the margins of the damage; don't sample bare ground. Another good clue for finding suspicious areas to sample, look for birds, especially robins, starlings, and gulls. Many times I have found crane flies by looking for holes punched through the grass by bird beaks. Birds are excellent crane fly scouts.

Once you've located your site, get your handy ruler out and measure a six inch by six inch square.Using a knife or cutting implement score the area by cutting into the ground about 3 inches deep. Pull back the turf sample. Grass is usually tough and will hold together. First inspect the hole in the turf for any larvae. Sometimes they are feeding in the zone where the roots pull away from the soil, these larvae will spill out as you pull up the sample.Then inspect the edges of your sample; many times you will cut into the larva. If you do this enough, you will become an expert on how to determine the difference between sliced earthworms and leatherjackets.

Begin to break up the sample; many times the clod will tear along areas where there are crane flies. Look for larvae in the thatch layer of the turf, this is where most larvae prefer to hang out and feed, about ½ inch deep. Count all the larvae you've seen. Multiple this number by 4 to determine the number of crane flies per square foot of lawn. Replant your sample back into the divot that was created. Turf is hardy and will reestablish with no problems and it will become unnoticeable shortly.

Repeat this three more times to find the average number of crane flies per square foot of lawn.

Crane fly eggs

Crane fly eggs

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