Crane flies, though similar in appearance to a giant mosquito, are not a kind of mosquito at all and do not bite, even though some people know them, incorrectly, by the name of “mosquito hawks,” which is a term that actually refers to dragonflies because of the large numbers of mosquitoes they consume. In fact, adult crane flies do not feed on anything at all. They belong to a family of flies called Tipulidae (mosquitoes are in a family called Culicidae). Crane flies are all very slender, with long and fragile legs that break off easily. The larvae are grey-brown in color, cylindrical in shape, and feed primarily on decomposing organic matter.
Adult crane flies are attracted to lights at night, and can be a real nuisance when they end up indoors, flying around awkwardly and weakly and bumping into things, etc. but they are not really considered a pest, for the most part, and are medically harmless. There are more than 1,600 species of crane flies in North America, but only four species cause any agricultural damage. Those four species include two native species plus the invasive European Crane Fly (see below)–and one other exotic species related to the European one.
- European Crane Fly / Leatherjacket (invasive) (Tipula paludosa) (pest of lawns and turf) (Cornell)
- Managing Crane Fly in Lawns (Oregon State University Extension Service)
- Crane Flies (Texas A&M)