Crane Fly

Tipula genus (many species)

Crane Flies look like giant mosquitoes, but they aren't. They are flies, same as mosquitoes, but otherwise are very different.

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.

There are many different species of Crane Flies and they are almost impossible to tell apart. They all 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.

© Garden Safarie,

Crane Flies mate on plants near water or in mid-air over the water, depending on the species. Adult Crane Flies do not eat. They have only one purpose, to mate and lay eggs.

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.

Copyright, Marlin E. Rice

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.

Copyright, Dexter Sear,

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.

Crane Flies lose their legs easily, and are lucky if they escape a bird missing only a leg or two.

Crane Flies are also attracted to lights, and sometimes will even swarm around a very bright light at night.

Relationships in Nature:


Yellow Pond Lily

Big Brown Bat

Yellow Pond Lily


Great Crested Flycatcher


Common Duckweed

Black and Yellow Argiope

Common Duckweed

Arrow Arum

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

White Cushion Moss


Red-winged Blackbird

Black Willow

Green Algae

Striped Skunk

American Sycamore

Lizard's Tail

Eastern Mole

White Oak


Largemouth Bass

Silver Maple

Greater Bladderwort

Channel Catfish

Arrow Arum

Yellow Perch

Green Algae


Lizard's Tail

Common Snapping Turtle



Greater Bladderwort

Northern Cardinal

Green Darner

Large Diving Beetle

Eastern Dobsonfly

Golden Shiner

Eastern Painted Turtle

Spined Micrathena

Relationship to Humans:

Crane Flies can be a nuisance when they enter homes. They really do no harm. They only come inside because they are attracted to lights. Crane Flies do not bite, since they don't even eat! They are important because they help break down dead plant material, especially dead leaves and stems on the bottoms of streams. This keeps the water healthy for fish and other wildlife.


Tipula (many species)


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