Valley News -

By Diane Sieker

Crane flies invade Anza


Last updated 4/19/2019 at 11:44pm

Courtesy photo

This crane fly rests on a flower during the invasion happening now in Southern California.

The incredibly misunderstood crane flies have arrived to inadvertently harass residents with their bumbling, incessant manner and outrageous numbers. The invasion is particularly noticeable as people have not seen such huge numbers of the insects in recent memory.

"It's pretty annoying when a bunch fly into my house when I go out," Cezanne Ryerson-Jodka said. "It's as though they heard there was a party at my place and they're rushing the door."

Crane flies are often mistaken for giant mosquitoes. It is unfortunate that this harmless insect resembles one of humanity's most obnoxious creatures, as they are smashed, trapped, shot with salt or left to die in bowls of water as a result. Despite their similarity to mosquitoes, crane flies do not bite, and many species are not known to even feed on anything in their adult form. 

Additionally, another myth is that crane flies are the most venomous insects in the world, but in reality they have no ability to administer venom. This wives' tale most likely arose due to the flies being confused with daddy long legs, to which they are not even remotely related. 

To add to their fearsome appearance, many female crane flies have a long ovipositor sticking out of her backside. It appears to be a stinger, but the ovipositor is used by the insect to insert her eggs into the soil or water. The eggs typically lay dormant over the colder months and hatch in the spring. The larvae, called leatherjackets, eat decaying plants, fungi, roots and leaf mold.

In most crane fly species, the female is equipped with mature eggs as she emerges from her pupa or cocoon. She will search out and mate immediately with the nearest male. Males also search for females by walking or flying. After mating, the female oviposits, or lays her eggs. Some species have even been reported simply dropping eggs in flight. Most crane fly eggs are black in color and often have a filament to anchor the egg in wet or aquatic environments.

Adult crane flies have a total life span of 10 to 15 days.

The larvae have been seen in many habitat types from dry land to water, and almost every habitat in between. They may eat algae, microflora, living plants or decomposing plant matter. Some even prey on other organisms. The leatherjackets are an important part of the soil ecosystem, processing organic material and increasing microbial activity. Larvae and adults are also abundant prey for insects, spiders, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals.

In their adult form, crane flies have such short lifespans that they do not eat at all and are anatomically incapable of killing or consuming other insects. They certainly do not eat mosquitoes. Some species may, if they feed at all, search out liquids such as nectar.

While annoying, the crane fly population explosion is thought to be due to the copious rainfall received over the winter. While they are an inconvenience, they also can be somewhat comical.

"How the heck do they get into light fixtures?" Jennifer King asked.

Keep car windows closed, screens tight and porch lights dim, and residents may escape most of the bumbling crane fly invasion. 


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