It is most likely that you’ve seen these long-legged, flying insects that seem like giant mosquitoes in the house, yard, or garden. These giant mosquitoes are often seen inside the house and have unusual flying behaviors, such as slamming and bouncing against ceilings and walls. Outside the house, they are frequently found in huge groups. Some people may already be aware that they are not giant mosquitoes but instead believe they are mosquito eaters.
What are mosquito eaters? Crane flies are commonly referred to as mosquito eaters, due to a belief that they prey on mosquitoes. Because of that, crane flies also got a nickname called “mosquito hawks.” They have long legs, wings and are larger than mosquitoes. The common crane fly size is around 1 to 1.5 inches long. Adult crane flies can grow up to 3 inches in length.
Mosquitoes can be found almost everywhere. They can be aggravating and annoying. These insects are also responsible for a large number of recorded deaths due to diseases transmitted by them. As a result, people tend to praise and glorify mosquito-eating predators. However, do crane flies, popularly known as mosquito eaters, actually eat mosquitoes? This article will discuss the characteristics of these so-called mosquito eaters, including their nature, habits, and whether or not they actually eat mosquitoes as their name implies.
Why Are They Called Mosquito Eaters?
Crane flies were given the label mosquito eaters because they resemble huge mosquitoes, and it was long thought that they preyed on mosquitoes. There are studies suggesting that some crane flies have been found to feed on mosquito larvae; however, this is extremely rare. In general, even though they are called mosquito eaters, crane flies don’t actually eat mosquitoes.
What Do Mosquito Eaters Eat?
Crane flies primarily feed on nectar from flowers and plants. Once crane flies reach the adult stage, they don’t feed on anything. On the other hand, crane fly larvae eat plant roots, stems, leaves, decaying wood, and other vegetation.
Why Are Crane Flies Also Called Mosquito Hawks?
Crane flies are known by a variety of names, including daddy longlegs, gallinippers, golly whoppers, mosquito eaters, and mosquito hawks. They are also known as mosquito hawks due to the popular belief that they hunt mosquitoes using their large wings and long legs. However, they aren’t truly eating mosquitoes because they don’t eat other insects and prefer nectar and plants instead.
The Life Cycle of a Crane Fly
Crane Fly Eggs
Adult crane flies emerge in the summer and mate. Within 24 hours, female crane flies will lay eggs on turfgrass, moist soil in yards or lawns, and in bodies of waters like creeks and lakes.
Crane Fly Larvae
After 6 to 14 days, crane fly eggs will hatch into crane fly larvae, also known as leatherjackets. They have a worm-like form with tapered ends and range up to 2 to 3 inches in length. Crane fly larvae have a strong outer layer of skin that is covered in tiny hairs. As mentioned earlier, they feed on plants, roots, stems, decaying wood, and vegetation. Crane fly larvae will then reach a non-feeding stage and spend the winter underground.
Crane Fly Pupae
In the middle to late spring, the larvae pupate just beneath the soil surface.
Adult Crane Fly
Adult crane flies will emerge in the summer to restart the cycle. They have a short lifespan, only long enough to mate and reproduce eggs.
How Long Do Mosquito Eaters Live?
Crane flies have a relatively short lifespan of 10 to 15 days. On the other hand, crane fly larvae can live for up to a year. They can survive the winter under the soil and then pupate into an adult over the spring and summer, beginning a fresh cycle each year. These creatures spend 95 percent of their lives as larvae.
Do Mosquito Eaters Bite Humans?
Crane flies don’t bite or sting humans. They feed on nectars, and most adult crane flies don’t feed at all. These creatures are harmless to humans and pets compared to actual mosquitoes that feed on blood and have the potential to carry diseases.
Why Do I Have So Many Mosquito Eaters in My Yard?
Adult crane flies are attracted to bodies of water and moisture in your yard. It could be a perfect location for them to mate and lay eggs. Crane flies are also drawn to your yard’s plants and flowers, where they can feed on nectar. Finally, crane flies recognize that the plants and grass in the yard can provide a sufficient food source for their larvae.
How Do I Prevent or Treat Mosquito Eater Infestation?
To prevent or treat mosquito eater infestation, you may do the following:
- Mosquito eaters should be treated by eliminating their larvae. Adult crane flies have a short life span and are never a threat to humans. Their larvae, however, can live longer and can cause damage to plants in the yard or garden due to their huge appetite.
- Maintain healthy turfgrass in a home yard to avoid being infested by crane flies. Cut and mow grass regularly.
- Ensure proper drainage to avoid bodies of water in the yard that attract crane flies to lay eggs.
- Utilizing crane fly larvae pesticides in the spring can eliminate larvae and prevent them from repopulating in the summer.
Should I Get Rid of Crane Flies (Mosquito Eater)?
Crane flies are harmless to humans. The crane flies found inside houses and banging on walls and windows are lost crane flies attracted to lights. Although crane fly larvae have the ability to harm plants in residential gardens, they also aid in biological decomposition by feeding on decaying and rotting plants and vegetation. Plus, they can be a constant food source from other animals such as birds, frogs, and other grub-eating animals. Crane flies can be eliminated easily; nevertheless, keep in mind their potential contribution to the ecological system.
How Do You Get Rid of Crane Flies?
To get rid of crane flies, focusing on getting rid of their larvae is the key. Since most adult crane flies have a shorter life span, crane fly larvae are the ones who strive the most in-home yards and gardens. Below are methods to get rid of crane flies:
- Commercial pesticides containing imidacloprid or pyrethrin eliminate crane flies and larvae and are harmless for plants in home yards, lawns, and gardens.
- They can also be repelled by using essential oils at home, such as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus.
- Garlic is also good at repelling insects, including crane flies. Spread garlic across infested areas in lawns and yards.
- If crane fly infestations have gotten out of hand, contact a professional pest control service.
Is There Anything Good About Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are despised by many people. They can be found almost anywhere. These pests have been known to suck blood from humans and cause death as a result of the diseases they may carry. Mosquitoes are always viewed as enemies. The moniker mosquito eaters came as a result of rumors that they hunt these hated mosquitoes. However, mosquitoes also contribute to the ecosystem. Because they are abundant, they become a regular food source for other insects and species that feed on them. Other animals, such as fish, consume their larvae as well.
It may be a shock for some that learning about crane flies known as mosquito hawks or mosquito eaters does not actually eat mosquitoes. Crane flies eat mostly plants and nectars. It’s only a rumor that they consume mosquitoes, where they coined its name as mosquito eaters.
They spend most of their lives as larvae, eating roots, plants, rotting wood, and vegetation. Crane flies are frequently seen outside, particularly in yards and gardens, where they are drawn to bodies of water and plants where they can feed, mate, and breed. The crane flies seen inside the houses are common because they are attracted to lights. Their strange flying behavior, such as banging and bouncing against walls and windows, is most likely due to them attempting to flee the house.
These creatures also infest house yards and gardens on a regular basis, but there are various ways to get rid of them.
List of Sources
Sutherland, A., et al. (2016). Crane Flies. University of California.
Billeisen, T., Brandenburg, R. (2017). Crane Fly Larvae in Turf. North Carolina State University.\\
Poorman, J. (2005). Beneficials in the Garden: Crane Fly. Texas A&M University.
Stolte, D. (2020). What’s up With All the Crane Flies? The University of Arizona.
Large Crane Flies. Missouri Department of Conservation.