Crane Flies in North Carolina
Crane flies are found all around the world in temperate or tropical climates and are often confused with mosquitoes, as they look like super-sized versions of those blood-sucking insects. Although their long bodies and thin legs resemble giant mosquitoes, crane flies do not bite people. In fact, they are sometimes called mosquito hawks or mosquito wasps, even though they don’t prey on mosquitoes. The larvae of this species can be damaging to turf and lawns as they feed on the roots, crowns, and above-ground portions of grass plants.
Crane Fly Habitat
Crane flies can be found in lawns, turf, compost piles, and in moist soil around ponds and streams. Adult crane flies emerge from the soil beneath turfgrass and other grassy areas in late summer and fall. Females lay eggs that hatch into small, brown, wormlike larvae commonly referred to as “leatherjackets”. The leatherjackets feed on the roots and crowns of clover and grass plants during the fall and then spend the winter as larvae in the soil. Around mid-May, they enter a nonfeeding pupal stage and remain just below the soil surface. In late summer, pupae wriggle to the surface and emerge as adults.
Crane Fly Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers
Adult crane flies do not bite or spread diseases, although crane flies in lawn grass can be problematic. Crane fly larvae feed on crowns and grass blades on warm nights, damaging lawns and turf. Damage often becomes noticeable in March and April and appears as dying patches of turfgrass. Populations of crane fly larvae have been reduced by as much as 50% during the winter months and between March and May as a result of predators such as birds and ground beetles and other natural causes. If you are dealing with a crane fly problem on your property, contact your local exterminators.