|Nephrotoma appendiculata (spotted crane fly)|
|Tipula sp. larva|
A crane fly is a member of the family of insects in the order Diptera, the true flies. The true crane flies are most often classified entirely within the family Tipulidae sensu stricto. Alternately, they are defined as the superfamily Tipuloidea, which includes the Tipulidae and a few other families.
Numerous other common names have been applied to the crane fly, many of them more or less regional, including mosquito hawk, mosquito eater, gallinipper, and gollywhopper. They are also known as daddy-long-legs, not to be confused with arachnids of the order Opiliones or the family Pholcidae. The larvae of crane flies are known commonly as leatherjackets.
Crane flies are widely distributed in general, though individual species usually have limited ranges. They are most diverse in the tropics, and are also common in northern latitudes and high elevations.
The Tipulidae sensu lato is one of the largest groups of flies, including over 15,000 species and subspecies in 525 genera and subgenera. The family sensu stricto includes over 4000 species in 115 genera. Most crane flies were described by the entomologist Charles Paul Alexander, a fly specialist, in over 1000 research publications.
Morphology and biology
The adult crane fly has a slender body and stilt-like legs that are deciduous, easily coming off the body. The wingspan is generally about 1 to 6.5 centimeters. The antennae have up to 39 segments. It is also characterized by a V-shaped suture on the back of the thorax and by its wing venation. The rostrum is long; in some species it is as long as the head and thorax together.
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. 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.
Crane fly larvae have been observed in many habitat types on dry land and in water, including marine, brackish, and fresh water. 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. There may be projections around the spiracles. Larvae may eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter, including wood. Some are predatory.
Larvae can be important in the soil ecosystem, because they process organic material and increase microbial activity. Larvae and adults are also valuable prey items for many animals, including insects, spiders, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals.
Contrary to myth, crane flies do not bite humans, nor do they consume mosquitoes. The larvae of some species are carnivorous on other small invertebrates, sometimes including mosquito larvae. Many adults, however, have such short life spans that they do not eat at all.
Larvae commonly consume plant roots, such as those of turfgrass, sometimes causing significant damage. The crane fly is occasionally considered a turf pest in some areas. In 1935, Lord's Cricket Ground in London was among the 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.
Tipula paludosa and T. oleracea are agricultural pests in Europe and are recently introduced invasive species in North America. The larvae have been observed on many crops, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, pasture, lawn grasses, and ornamental plants.
- Subfamily Ctenophorinae
- Subfamily Dolichopezinae
- Subfamily Tipulinae
- Acracantha Skuse, 1890
- Angarotipula Savchenko, 1961
- Austrotipula Alexander, 1920
- Brachypremna Osten Sacken, 1887
- Brithura Edwards, 1916
- Clytocosmus Skuse, 1890
- Elnoretta Alexander, 1929
- Euvaldiviana Alexander, 1981
- Goniotipula Alexander, 1921
- Holorusia Loew, 1863
- Hovapeza Alexander, 1951
- Hovatipula Alexander, 1955
- Idiotipula Alexander, 1921
- Indotipula Edwards, 1931
- Ischnotoma Skuse, 1890
- Keiseromyia Alexander, 1963
- Leptotarsus Guerin-Meneville, 1831
- Macgregoromyia Alexander, 1929
- Megistocera Wiedemann, 1828
- Nephrotoma Meigen, 1803
- Nigrotipula Hudson & Vane-Wright, 1969
- Ozodicera Macquart, 1834
- Platyphasia Skuse, 1890
- Prionocera Loew, 1844
- Prionota van der Wulp, 1885
- Ptilogyna Westwood, 1835
- Scamboneura Osten Sacken, 1882
- Sphaerionotus de Meijere, 1919
- Tipula Linnaeus, 1758, 1758
- Tipulodina Enderlein, 1912
- Valdiviana Alexander, 1929
- Zelandotipula Alexander, 1922
- Tipularia discolor, the crane fly orchid
- What is a crane fly? Department of Entomology. Iowa State University.
- Dictionary of American Regional English.
- Watson, L. and M. J. Dallwitz. 2003 onwards. Tipulidae. British Insects: The Families of Diptera. Version: 1 January 2012.
- Pritchard, G. (1983). Biology of Tipulidae. Annual Review of Entomology 28(1), 1-22.
- de Jong, H., et al. (2008). Global diversity of craneflies (Insecta, Diptera: Tipulidea or Tipulidae sensu lato) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595(1), 457-67.
- 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.
- Newton. B. Crane Flies. Kentucky Insects. Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.
- A. Ward. Cricket's Strangest Matches (1998 ed.). Robson Books, London. p. 111.
- Rao, S., et al. (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.
|Look up crane fly in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tipulidae.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Tipulidae|
- Ohioline.osu.edu, Ohio State University Fact Sheet
- IZ.carnegiemnh.org, Crane Flies of Pennsylvania, Extensive Specimen Collection, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
- NLBIF.eti.uva.nl, Catalog of Craneflies of the World
- Diptera.info, Image Gallery
- BugGuide.net, photo gallery, many species
- Gaga.jes.mlc.edu.tw, Tipulidae of Taiwan (Chinese), with images under Latin binomials
- Insects.tamu.edu, Texas A&M Entomology Field Guide
- Crane Flies of PA