Crane fly is a common name referring to any member of the insect
family Tipulidae, of the order Diptera, true flies in the superfamily
Tipuloidea. Cylindrotominae, Limoniinae, and Pediciinae have been
ranked as subfamilies of Tipulidae by most authors, though
occasionally elevated to family rank. In the most recent
Pediciidae is now ranked as a separate family,
due to considerations of paraphyly. In colloquial speech, crane
flies are sometimes known as mosquito hawks or daddy longlegs, a term
also used to describe opiliones or the family Pholcidae, both of which
are arachnids. The larvae of crane flies are known commonly as
Crane flies are found worldwide, 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 is one of the largest groups of flies, including over
15,000 species and subspecies in 525 genera and subgenera. Most
crane flies were described by the entomologist Charles Paul Alexander,
a fly specialist, in over 1000 research publications.
4 Pest status
7 Common names
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
12.1 Species lists
The head of a
The adult crane fly, resembling an oversized mosquito, has a slender
body and stilt-like legs that are deciduous, easily coming off the
body. The wingspan is generally about 1.0 to 6.5 cm. 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
For terms see Morphology of Diptera
Tipulidae are large to medium-sized flies (7–35 mm) with
elongated legs, wings, and abdomen. Their colour is yellow, brown or
grey. Ocelli are absent. The rostrum (a snout) is short to very short
with a beak-like point called the nasus (rarely absent). The apical
segment of the maxillary palpi is flagelliform and much longer than
the subapical segment. The antennae have 13 segments (exceptionally
14–19). These are whorled, serrate, or ctenidial. There is a
distinct V-shaped suture between the mesonotal prescutum and scutum
(near the level of the wing bases). The wings are monochromatic,
longitudinally striped or marbled. In females the wings are sometimes
rudimentary. The sub-costal vein (Sc) joins through Sc2 with the
radial vein, Sc1 is at most a short stump. There are four, rarely
(when R2 is reduced) three branches of the radial vein merging into
the alar margin. The discoidal wing cell is usually present. The wing
has two anal veins. Sternite 9 of the male genitalia has, with few
exceptions, two pairs of appendages. Sometimes appendages are also
present on sternite 8. The female ovipositor has sclerotized valves
and the cerci have a smooth or dentate lower margin. The valves are
sometimes modified into thick bristles or short teeth.
The larva is elongated, usually cylindrical. The posterior two-thirds
of the head capsule is enclosed or retracted within the prothoracic
segment. The larva is metapneustic (with only one pair of spiracles,
these on the anal segment of the abdomen), but often with vestigial
lateral spiracles (rarely apneustic). The head capsule is sclerotized
anteriorly and deeply incised ventrally and often dorsolaterally. The
mandibles are opposed and move in the horizontal or oblique plane. The
abdominal segments have transverse creeping welts. The terminal
segments of the abdomen are glabrous, often partially sclerotized and
bearing posterior spiracles. The spiracular disc is usually surrounded
by lobe-like projections and anal papillae or lobes.
A pair of crane flies (Tipulidae) mating
Crane fly molting
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. Adults have a
lifespan of 10 to 15 days. 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
Crane fly larvae (leatherjackets) 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. Projections may occur around the
spiracles. Larvae may eat algae, microflora, and living or
decomposing plant matter, including wood. Some are predatory.
The thorax of a crane fly
Larval habitats include all kinds of freshwater, semiaquatic
environments. Some Tipulinae, including
Dolichopeza Curtis, are found
in moist to wet cushions of mosses or liverworts. Ctenophora Meigen
species are found in decaying wood or sodden logs.
Tipula Linnaeus larvae are found in dry soils of pasturelands,
lawns, and steppe. Tipulidae larvae are also found in rich organic
earth and mud, in wet spots in woods where the humus is saturated, in
leaf litter or mud, decaying plant materials, or fruits in various
stages of putrefaction.
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.
The larvae of some species consume other living aquatic insects and
invertebrates, which could potentially include mosquito larvae.
Many adults, however, have such short lifespans that they do not eat
Despite widely held beliefs that adult crane flies (or "mosquito
hawks") prey on mosquito populations, the adult crane fly is
anatomically incapable of killing or consuming other insects.
The common European crane fly,
Tipula paludosa, and the marsh crane
fly, T. oleracea, are agricultural pests in Europe.
Crane fly larvae
of economic importance live in the top layers of soil where they feed
on the roots, root hairs, crown, and sometimes the leaves of crops,
stunting their growth or killing the plants. They are pests on a
variety of commodities. Since the late 1900s, T. paludosa and T.
oleracea have become invasive in the United States. The
larvae have been observed on many crops, including vegetables, fruits,
cereals, pasture, lawn grasses, and ornamental plants.
Lord's Cricket Ground
Lord's Cricket Ground in London was among 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.
Global diversity of Tipulidae
Ctenophora Meigen, 1803
Dictenidia Brulle, 1833
Phoroctenia Coquillett, 1910
Pselliophora Osten Sacken, 1887
Tanyptera Latreille, 1804
Cylindrotoma Macquart, 1834
Diogma Edwards, 1938
Liogma Osten Sacken, 1869
Phalacrocera Schiner, 1863
Stibadocera Enderlein, 1912
Stibadocerella Brunetti, 1918
Stibadocerina Alexander, 1929
Stibadocerodes Alexander, 1928
Triogma Schiner, 1863
Dolichopeza Curtis, 1825
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
Tipulodina Enderlein, 1912
Valdiviana Alexander, 1929
Zelandotipula Alexander, 1922
The phylogenetic position of the Tipulidae remains uncertain. The
classical viewpoint that they are an early branch of
Diptera—perhaps (with the Trichoceridae) the sister group of
all other Diptera—is giving way to modern views that they are more
highly derived. This is thanks to evidence from molecular studies,
which is consistent with the more derived larval characters similar to
those of 'higher' Diptera. The
Pediciidae and Tipulidae are sister
groups (the "limoniids" are a paraphyletic clade) and the
Cylindrotominae appear to be a relict group that was much better
represented in the Tertiary. Tipulidae probably evolved from
ancestors in the Upper Jurassic, the Architipulidae.
Numerous other common names have been applied to the crane fly. Many
of the names are more or less regional in the U.S., including mosquito
hawk, mosquito eater, gallinipper, and gollywhopper. They are also
known as daddy longlegs around the world, not to be confused with
daddy-long-legs that refers to arachnids of the order
Opiliones or the
family Pholcidae. The larvae of crane flies are known commonly as
There is an enduring urban legend that crane flies are the most
venomous insects in the world, but have no ability to administer the
venom. This is not true. The myth likely arose due to their being
confused with the cellar spider as they are also informally called
"daddy longlegs", and although the spider does possess venom, this has
also been debunked.
Tipularia discolor, the crane fly orchid
^ Alexander C.P., Byers G.W. (1981) Tipulidae. in: McAlpine J.F. et
al. (Ed.), Manual of Nearctic Diptera. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, pp.
153–1902 ISBN 0-660-10731-7 pdf download manual
^ a b Petersen, Matthew J.; Bertone, Matthew A.; Wiegmann, Brian M.;
Courtney, Gregory W. (2010). "Phylogenetic synthesis of morphological
and molecular data reveals new insights into the higher-level
Tipuloidea (Diptera)". Systematic Entomology. 35
(3): 526–545. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2010.00524.x.
^ a b c d Watson, L. and M. J. Dallwitz. 2003 onwards. Tipulidae.
British Insects: The Families of Diptera. Version: 1 January 2012.
^ a b Pritchard, G. (1983). Biology of Tipulidae. Annual Review of
Entomology 28(1), 1-22.
^ a b c d e de Jong, H., et al. (2008). Global diversity of craneflies
(Insecta, Diptera: Tipulidea or Tipulidae sensu lato) in freshwater.
Hydrobiologia 595(1), 457-67.
^ a b c d e 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
Special Publication. Apollo Press. 1989.
^ "Crane Flies :: Introduction".
^ G Pritchard , 1983 Biology of Tipulidae Annual Review of Entomology
Vol. 28: 1-22 pdf
Fly Larvae - EcoSpark".
^ a b Blake Newton. "Crane Flies of Kentucky - University of Kentucky
Mosquito Hawk? Skeeter Eater? Giant Mosquito? No, No, and No".
^ Rao, Sujaya; Listona, Aaron; Cramptonb, Lora; Takeyasu, Joyce
(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):
^ Blackshaw R. P, Coll C. Economically important leatherjackets of
grassland and cereals: biology, impact and control. Integr. Pest.
Manag. Rev. 1999, 4:143-160.Blackshaw_and_Coll,_1999.pdf pdf
^ Jackson D. M, Campbell R. L. Biology of the European crane fly,
Meigen, in western Washington (Tipulidae: Diptera). Washington State
University Technical Bull. No. 81. 1975.
^ A. Ward. Cricket's Strangest Matches (1998 ed.). Robson Books,
London. p. 111.
^ Rohdendorf, B. 1974. The Historical Development of Diptera.
Edmonton: Univ. Alberta.
^ Savchenko, E. N. 1966. Phylogeny and systematics of the Tipulidae.
Fauna Ukraini 14:63–88. In Russian.
^ CSIRO, 2017. Australian
^ Gullan, P. J., Cranston, P. S. 2014. The insects: an outline of
entomology. 5th edition. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.
^ Hennig, W. 1950. Die Larvenformen der Dipteren, Arb. 2. Berlin:
^ Dictionary of American Regional English.
^ Could record 200 billion daddy-long-legs hit UK? - Newsround, CBBC,
8 September 2016.
^ Debunked: Are Daddy Longlegs the most poisonous spiders in the
world? - TheJournal.ie, 20 October 2013.
Pierre C.,1924, Diptères: Tipulidae Faune de France n° 8
Bibliotheque Virtuelle Numerique Out of date but online at no cost. In
R. L. Coe, Paul Freeman & P. F. Mattingly Nematocera: families
Tipulidae to Chironomidae (Tipulidae). Handbooks for the
Identification of British Insects Vol 9 Part 2 i. pdf download manual
Out of date but online at no cost
J.F. McAlpine, B.V. Petersen, G.E. Shewell, H.J. Teskey, J.R.
Vockeroth, D.M. Wood. Eds. 1987 Manual of Nearctic Diptera Volume 1
Research Branch Agriculture Canada, 1987 pdf key to Nearctic genera
E. N. Savchenko Family Tipulidae in Bei-Bienko, G. Ya, 1988 Keys to
the insects of the European Part of the USSR Volume 5 (Diptera) Part 2
English edition. Keys to Palaearctic species but now needs revision.
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
Family Tipulidae at EOL
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 (in Chinese), with images
under Latin binomials
Insects.tamu.edu, Texas A&M
Entomology Field Guide
Crane Flies of PA
West Palaearctic including Russia
Fauna Europaea: 11636