Crane fly

Crane fly is a common name referring to any member of the insect family Tipulidae, of the order Diptera, true flies in the superfamily Tipuloidea. Cylindrotominae, Limoniinae, and Pediciinae have been ranked as subfamilies of Tipulidae by most authors,[1] though occasionally elevated to family rank. In the most recent classifications, only Pediciidae is now ranked as a separate family, due to considerations of paraphyly.[2] In colloquial speech, crane flies are sometimes known as mosquito hawks or daddy longlegs, a term also used to describe opiliones or the family Pholcidae, both of which are arachnids. The larvae of crane flies are known commonly as leatherjackets.[3]

Crane flies are found worldwide, though individual species usually have limited ranges. They are most diverse in the tropics, and are also common in northern latitudes and high elevations.[4]

The Tipulidae is one of the largest groups of flies, including over 15,000 species and subspecies in 525 genera and subgenera.[5] Most crane flies were described by the entomologist Charles Paul Alexander, a fly specialist, in over 1000 research publications.[6]

Crane fly
Tipulidae April 2008-2
Nephrotoma appendiculata (spotted crane fly)
Tipula leatherjacket Emelt
Tipula sp. larva
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Superfamily: Tipuloidea
Family: Tipulidae
Latreille, 1802

See text


Crane Fly - (Tipula)
The head of a Tipula sp.


An adult crane fly, resembling an oversized mosquito, typically has a slender body and stilt-like legs that are deciduous, easily coming off the body. The wingspan is generally about 1.0 to 6.5 cm, though some species of Holorusia can reach 11 cm.[7] The antennae have up to 19 segments.[3] It is also characterized by a V-shaped suture on the back of the thorax and by its wing venation.[4] The rostrum is long; in some species it is as long as the head and thorax together.[5]


Tipulidae are large to medium-sized flies (7–35 mm) with elongated legs, wings, and abdomen. Their colour is yellow, brown or grey. Ocelli are absent. The rostrum (a snout) is short to very short with a beak-like point called the nasus (rarely absent). The apical segment of the maxillary palpi is flagelliform and much longer than the subapical segment. The antennae have 13 segments (exceptionally 14–19). These are whorled, serrate, or ctenidial. There is a distinct V-shaped suture between the mesonotal prescutum and scutum (near the level of the wing bases). The wings are monochromatic, longitudinally striped or marbled. In females the wings are sometimes rudimentary. The sub-costal vein (Sc) joins through Sc2 with the radial vein, Sc1 is at most a short stump. There are four, rarely (when R2 is reduced) three branches of the radial vein merging into the alar margin. The discoidal wing cell is usually present. The wing has two anal veins. Sternite 9 of the male genitalia has, with few exceptions, two pairs of appendages. Sometimes appendages are also present on sternite 8. The female ovipositor has sclerotized valves and the cerci have a smooth or dentate lower margin. The valves are sometimes modified into thick bristles or short teeth.

Tipulidae wing veins-1
Tipulidae wing veins-2

The larva is elongated, usually cylindrical. The posterior two-thirds of the head capsule is enclosed or retracted within the prothoracic segment. The larva is metapneustic (with only one pair of spiracles, these on the anal segment of the abdomen), but often with vestigial lateral spiracles (rarely apneustic). The head capsule is sclerotized anteriorly and deeply incised ventrally and often dorsolaterally. The mandibles are opposed and move in the horizontal or oblique plane. The abdominal segments have transverse creeping welts. The terminal segments of the abdomen are glabrous, often partially sclerotized and bearing posterior spiracles. The spiracular disc is usually surrounded by lobe-like projections and anal papillae or lobes.


Tipulidae crane fly mating
A pair of crane flies (Tipulidae) mating
Cranefly molting (3) 6june2014
Crane fly molting

The adult female usually contains mature eggs as she emerges from her pupa, and often mates immediately if a male is available. Males also search for females by walking or flying. Copulation takes a few minutes to hours and may be accomplished in flight. Adults have a lifespan of 10 to 15 days.[8] The female immediately oviposits, usually in wet soil or mats of algae. Some lay eggs on the surface of a water body or in dry soils, and some reportedly simply drop them in flight. Most crane fly eggs are black in color. They often have a filament, which may help anchor the egg in wet or aquatic environments.[6]

Crane fly larvae (leatherjackets) have been observed in many habitat types on dry land and in water,[6] including marine, brackish, and fresh water.[5] They are cylindrical in shape, but taper toward the front end, and the head capsule is often retracted into the thorax. The abdomen may be smooth, lined with hairs, or studded with projections or welt-like spots. Projections may occur around the spiracles.[5] Larvae may eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter, including wood. Some are predatory.[6][9]


Tipulidae Luc Viatour
The thorax of a crane fly

Larval habitats include all kinds of freshwater, semiaquatic environments. Some Tipulinae, including Dolichopeza Curtis, are found in moist to wet cushions of mosses or liverworts. Ctenophora Meigen species are found in decaying wood or sodden logs. Nephrotoma Meigen and Tipula Linnaeus larvae are found in dry soils of pasturelands, lawns, and steppe. Tipulidae larvae are also found in rich organic earth and mud, in wet spots in woods where the humus is saturated, in leaf litter or mud, decaying plant materials, or fruits in various stages of putrefaction.

Larvae can be important in the soil ecosystem, because they process organic material and increase microbial activity.[6] Larvae and adults are also valuable prey items for many animals, including insects, spiders, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals.[5]

The larvae of a few species consume other living aquatic insects and invertebrates, which could potentially include mosquito larvae, though this has not been documented.[10] Many adults, however, have such short lifespans that they do not eat at all[10], and, despite widely held beliefs that adult crane flies (or "mosquito hawks") prey on mosquito populations, the adult crane fly is anatomically incapable of killing or consuming other insects.[11]

Pest status

The common European crane fly, Tipula paludosa, and the marsh crane fly, T. oleracea, are agricultural pests in Europe. Crane fly larvae of economic importance live in the top layers of soil where they feed on the roots, root hairs, crown, and sometimes the leaves of crops, stunting their growth or killing the plants. They are pests on a variety of commodities. Since the late 1900s, T. paludosa and T. oleracea have become invasive in the United States.[12][13][14] The larvae have been observed on many crops, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, pasture, lawn grasses, and ornamental plants.

In 1935, Lord's Cricket Ground in London was among venues affected by leatherjackets. Several thousand were collected by ground staff and burned, because they caused bald patches on the wicket and the pitch took unaccustomed spin for much of the season.[15]


Global diversity of Tipulidae


The phylogenetic position of the Tipulidae remains uncertain. The classical viewpoint that they are an early branch of Diptera[16][17]—perhaps (with the Trichoceridae) the sister group of all other Diptera—is giving way to modern views that they are more highly derived.[18] This is thanks to evidence from molecular studies, which is consistent with the more derived larval characters similar to those of 'higher' Diptera.[19] The Pediciidae and Tipulidae are sister groups (the "limoniids" are a paraphyletic clade)[2] and the Cylindrotominae appear to be a relict group that was much better represented in the Tertiary.[20] Tipulidae probably evolved from ancestors in the Upper Jurassic, the Architipulidae.

Common names

Numerous other common names have been applied to the crane fly. Many of the names are more or less regional in the U.S., including mosquito hawk, mosquito eater, gallinipper, and gollywhopper.[21] They are also known as daddy longlegs around the world,[3] not to be confused with daddy-long-legs that refers to arachnids of the order Opiliones or the family Pholcidae. The larvae of crane flies are known commonly as leatherjackets.[3]


There is an enduring urban legend that crane flies are the most venomous insects in the world, but have no ability to administer the venom; this is not true.[22] The myth likely arose due to their being confused with the cellar spider as they are also informally called "daddy longlegs", and although the spider does possess venom, this has also been debunked.[23]

Crane flies are sometimes called "mosquito hawks", but they do not actually eat mosquitoes. Crane fly larvae mostly feed on roots of forage crops, turf grasses and seedling field crops, while adults, if they feed at all, feed primarily on liquids such as nectar.

See also


  1. ^ Alexander C.P., Byers G.W. (1981) Tipulidae. in: McAlpine J.F. et al. (Ed.), Manual of Nearctic Diptera. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, pp. 153–1902 ISBN 0-660-10731-7 pdf download manual
  2. ^ a b Petersen, Matthew J.; Bertone, Matthew A.; Wiegmann, Brian M.; Courtney, Gregory W. (2010). "Phylogenetic synthesis of morphological and molecular data reveals new insights into the higher-level classification of Tipuloidea (Diptera)". Systematic Entomology. 35 (3): 526–545. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2010.00524.x.
  3. ^ a b c d Watson, L. and M. J. Dallwitz. 2003 onwards. Tipulidae. British Insects: The Families of Diptera. Version: 1 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b Pritchard, G. (1983). Biology of Tipulidae. Annual Review of Entomology 28(1), 1-22.
  5. ^ a b c d e de Jong, H., et al. (2008). Global diversity of craneflies (Insecta, Diptera: Tipulidea or Tipulidae sensu lato) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595(1), 457-67.
  6. ^ a b c d e Oosterbroek, P. Superfamily Tipuloidea, Family Tipulidae. Chapter 2 In: Evenhuis, N. L. (Ed.) Catalog of the Diptera of the Australasian and Oceanian Regions, Issue 86 of Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication. Apollo Press. 1989.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Crane Flies :: Introduction".
  9. ^ G Pritchard , 1983 Biology of Tipulidae Annual Review of Entomology Vol. 28: 1-22 pdf
  10. ^ a b Blake Newton. "Crane Flies of Kentucky - University of Kentucky Entomology".
  11. ^ "Mosquito Hawk? Skeeter Eater? Giant Mosquito? No, No, and No". Entomology Today.
  12. ^ Rao, Sujaya; Listona, Aaron; Cramptonb, Lora; Takeyasu, Joyce (2006). "Identification of Larvae of Exotic Tipula paludosa (Diptera: Tipulidae) and T. oleracea in North America Using Mitochondrial cytB Sequences". Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 99 (1): 33–40. doi:10.1603/0013-8746(2006)099[0033:IOLOET]2.0.CO;2.
  13. ^ Blackshaw R. P, Coll C. Economically important leatherjackets of grassland and cereals: biology, impact and control. Integr. Pest. Manag. Rev. 1999, 4:143-160.Blackshaw_and_Coll,_1999.pdf pdf
  14. ^ Jackson D. M, Campbell R. L. Biology of the European crane fly, Meigen, in western Washington (Tipulidae: Diptera). Washington State University Technical Bull. No. 81. 1975.
  15. ^ A. Ward. Cricket's Strangest Matches (1998 ed.). Robson Books, London. p. 111.
  16. ^ Rohdendorf, B. 1974. The Historical Development of Diptera. Edmonton: Univ. Alberta.
  17. ^ Savchenko, E. N. 1966. Phylogeny and systematics of the Tipulidae. Fauna Ukraini 14:63–88. In Russian.
  18. ^ CSIRO, 2017. Australian Insect Families, <>
  19. ^ Gullan, P. J., Cranston, P. S. 2014. The insects: an outline of entomology. 5th edition. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.
  20. ^ Hennig, W. 1950. Die Larvenformen der Dipteren, Arb. 2. Berlin: Akad. Verlag.
  21. ^ Dictionary of American Regional English.
  22. ^ Could record 200 billion daddy-long-legs hit UK? - Newsround, CBBC, 8 September 2016.
  23. ^ Debunked: Are Daddy Longlegs the most poisonous spiders in the world? -, 20 October 2013.

Further reading

  • Pierre C.,1924, Diptères: Tipulidae Faune de France n° 8 Bibliotheque Virtuelle Numerique Out of date but online at no cost. In French.
  • R. L. Coe, Paul Freeman & P. F. Mattingly Nematocera: families Tipulidae to Chironomidae (Tipulidae). Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects Vol 9 Part 2 i. pdf download manual Out of date but online at no cost
  • J.F. McAlpine, B.V. Petersen, G.E. Shewell, H.J. Teskey, J.R. Vockeroth, D.M. Wood. Eds. 1987 Manual of Nearctic Diptera Volume 1 Research Branch Agriculture Canada, 1987 pdf key to Nearctic genera
  • E. N. Savchenko Family Tipulidae in Bei-Bienko, G. Ya, 1988 Keys to the insects of the European Part of the USSR Volume 5 (Diptera) Part 2 English edition. Keys to Palaearctic species but now needs revision.

External links

Species lists

C. japonica

C. japonica may refer to:

Caenorhabditis japonica, a nematode species

Caligula japonica, the Japanese giant silkworm, a moth species found in Eastern Asia, including China, Korea, Japan and Russia

Callicarpa japonica, the Japanese beautyberry, a tree species native to Japan

Calostoma japonica, a mushroom species

Camellia japonica, the Japanese camellia, a flowering shrub or a small tree species native to Japan, Korea and China

Carex japonica, a perennial sedge species

Carpinus japonica, a plant species in the genus Carpinus

Cayratia japonica, the bushkiller, Yabu Garashi and Japanese cayratia herb, a herbaceous plant species native to Australia and Asia

Chaenomeles japonica, the Kusa-boke, a deciduous shrub species

Chalcophora japonica, the ubatamamushi or flat-headed wood-borer, a metallic, bullet-shaped, woodboring beetle species endemic to Japan

Charybdis japonica, a swimming crab species found in the waters near Japan

Cheilosia japonica, a hoverfly species in the genus Cheilosia

Cheilotrichia japonica, a crane fly species in the genus Cheilotrichia

Chionographis japonica, a herbaceous plant species in the genus Chionographis

Cicindela japonica, the Japanese tiger beetle, a ground beetle species native to Asia

Citrus japonica, the kumquat, a small fruit-bearing tree species

Cladura japonica, a crane fly species in the genus Cladura

Cleyera japonica, the sakaki, a flowering evergreen tree or shrub species native to Japan, Korea and China

Collinsonia japonica, a flowering plant species in the genus Collinsonia

Collodiscula japonica, a fungus species

Coturnix japonica, the Japanese quail, a bird species found in East Asia

Croomia japonica, a primitive angiosperm herb species found in Japan

Cryptomeria japonica, the sugi or Japanese cedar, a conifer species endemic to Japan

Cryptotaenia japonica, a herbaceous perennial plant species

Cuscuta japonica, the Japanese dodder, a parasitic vine species

Cylindrotoma japonica, a crane fly species in the genus Cylindrotoma


Cylindrotoma is a genus of crane fly in the family Cylindrotomidae.


Dicranoptycha is a genus of crane fly in the family Limoniidae.

Elephantomyia baltica

Elephantomyia (Elephantomyia) baltica is an extinct species of crane fly in the family Limoniidae. The species is solely known from the Middle Eocene Baltic amber deposits in the Baltic Sea region of Europe. The species is one of six described from Baltic amber.

Elephantomyia brevipalpa

Elephantomyia (Elephantomyia) brevipalpa is an extinct species of crane fly in the family Limoniidae. The species is solely known from the Middle Eocene Baltic amber deposits in the Baltic Sea region of Europe. The species is one of six described from Baltic amber.

Elephantomyia irinae

Elephantomyia (Elephantomyia) irinae is an extinct species of crane fly in the family Limoniidae. The species is solely known from the Middle Eocene Baltic amber deposits in the Baltic Sea region of Europe. The species is one of six described from Baltic amber.

Elephantomyia pulchella

Elephantomyia (Elephantomyia) pulchella is an extinct species of crane fly in the family Limoniidae. The species is solely known from the Middle Eocene Baltic amber deposits in the Baltic Sea region of Europe. The species is one of six described from Baltic amber.

Limnophila (fly)

Limnophila is a genus of limoniid crane flies in the family Limoniidae. There are at least 280 described species in Limnophila.Members of the family Limoniidae were previously in a subfamily of Tipulidae which was promoted to family rank.


Neocladura is a genus of crane fly in the family Limoniidae.

Nephrotoma appendiculata

Nephrotoma appendiculata, the spotted crane fly, is a species of crane fly.

Nephrotoma australasiae

Nephrotoma australasiae the tiger crane fly is a species of flies in the family Tipulidae. It is found in Australia .

Old Roar Gill and Coronation Wood

Old Roar Gill and Coronation Wood is a 7.6-hectare (19-acre) Local Nature Reserve in Hastings in East Sussex. It is owned and managed by Hastings Borough Council.This site has areas of open water, broadleaved woodland, fern and tall herbs. Old Roar Gill is a narrow steep-sided valley at the northern end of Alexandra Park. It has uncommon liverworts, mosses and lichens, together with rare and scarce invertebrates such as Rolph's door snail and the crane fly Lipsothrix nervosa.


Polymera is a genus of crane fly in the family Limoniidae.

T. orientalis

T. orientalis may refer to:

Tasiocera orientalis, a crane fly species in the genus Tasiocera

Thenus orientalis, the Moreton Bay bug or Bay lobster, a slipper lobster species found throughout the waters of Australia's north coast

Thunnus orientalis, the Pacific bluefin tuna, a fish species found in the Pacific Ocean

Timia orientalis, a picture-winged fly species

Tipula orientalis, a crane fly species in the genus Tipula

Toussaintia orientalis, a plant species endemic to Tanzania and Kenya

Trachystemon orientalis, the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, a perennial herb species native to eastern Europe

Tragopogon orientalis, a plant species in the genus Tragopogon

Trema orientalis, the pigeon wood, gunpowder tree or nalita, a flowering tree species found from South Africa to Tropical Africa and in warm regions of Asia

Triplophysa orientalis, a ray-finned fish species

Typha orientalis, the raupo, a wetland plant species in the genus Typha


Thaumastoptera is a genus of crane fly in the family Limoniidae.

Tipula fuliginosa

Tipula fuliginosa, the sooty crane fly, is a species of large crane fly in the family Tipulidae.

Tipula paludosa

Tipula paludosa is a species of true craneflies, family Tipulidae. It is also known as the European crane fly or the marsh crane fly. It is a pest in grasslands of Northwest Europe and has been accidentally introduced to North America.

Tipularia discolor

Tipularia discolor, the crippled cranefly or crane-fly orchid, is a perennial terrestrial woodland orchid, a member of the Orchidaceae family. It is the only species of the genus Tipularia found in North America. It occurs in the southeastern United States from Texas to Florida, the range extending north into the Ohio Valley and along the Appalachians as far north as the Catskills. There are also isolated populations in Massachusetts and in the Great Lakes region.Tipularia discolor grows a single leaf in September that disappears in the spring. The leaf top is green, often with dark purple spots. The leaf underside is a striking purple color. The flower blooms in mid-July to late August. The roots are a connected series of edible corms. They are starchy and almost potato-like.

The plant is pollinated by noctuid moths, by means of flowers which incline slightly to the right or left, so the pollinaria can attach to one of the moth's compound eyes. The details of the inflorescence can be seen in a video recorded in State Botanical Gardens in Athens, GA


Crane-fly orchids are endangered, threatened, or rare in several states.


Toxorhina is a genus of crane fly in the family Limoniidae. It can be distinguished among other crane flies by the reduced number of veins in the wings, among other less apparent differences.

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