How to get rid of crane flies

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Crane flies, also known as mosquito hawks and by several other names, aren’t something most people think about very often. Until they discover that their garden has become a crane fly nursery, and there are large brown patches on their lawn because of it!

Usually, crane flies are harmless, and if you only see the occasional adult in your home, there’s no reason to panic. However, if you have a serious crane fly problem, you will need to use the right kinds of products and treatments to get rid of it. Here’s what you need to know about crane flies, and more importantly, how to get rid of crane flies. 

What Is a Crane Fly?

Crane flies are winged insects that have very long, very thin legs. Sometimes, they’re mistaken for mosquitos, but they’re much larger than mosquitos – and they don’t suck your blood! They also don’t have venom, although that is another popular myth about crane flies. 

Most crane flies are black, but they can also be red or yellow, depending on the species. Their wings are usually transparent, but they can also be brown or black, again, depending on the type and species. 

Female crane flies have longer abdomens that can look like stingers, but they are completely harmless and are simply there to create and deposit eggs. 

While they might look like mosquitos, crane flies are actually true flies, part of the same family as the housefly. In fact, they’re also not just one species – there are several different kinds of crane fly that are found in different parts of the world and in slightly different habitats. 

How Big Are Crane Flies?

One of the biggest visual differences between crane flies and mosquitos is that crane flies are bigger – sometimes a lot bigger. 

In fact, most crane flies are somewhere between one inch in diameter and a whopping four and a half inches! So if you see a flying creepy crawly that is about the size of your hand and has thin, spindly legs, it’s probably a crane fly! 

What Do Crane Flies Eat?

As we’ve already mentioned, crane flies are not like mosquitos, in that they don’t suck blood from people or animals. There are also some myths out there that crane flies eat mosquitos, but those are also incorrect. 

Instead, adult crane flies sip nectar from flowers, and therefore they can actually help with pollination. 

Unfortunately, crane fly larvae eat wood and vegetation – which includes your lawn and the plants in your garden, which is why they are a problem.

Where Do You Find Crane Flies?

Crane flies usually live near wooded areas that have a fair amount of moisture. They are very widespread, and are found in the USA, Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand, and many other places in between! In fact, wherever the climate is not too extreme, you will probably find crane flies. 

What Other Names Are Crane Flies Known As?

Crane flies are known by many other names, depending on where you live. This may include mosquito hawks, gallinippers, jimmy nippers and gollywhoppers, among others. While some of their names might be funny though, the effect they can have definitely is not. 

How Long Do Crane Flies Live?

The biggest irony of the crane fly life cycle is that for most of it, they’re not crane flies at all. 

The crane fly larva, known as a leatherjacket, lives underground and in rotting wood for up to six months. Then they pupate and hatch into crane flies, and once that happens, their remaining lifespan will only be somewhere between 10 and 15 days. 

During that time, they will mate and lay eggs, and then they will die. 

So when you’re asking about how to get rid of crane flies, what you really want to do is get rid of their larvae, before they have a chance to hatch. 

Why Are Crane Flies Considered Pests?

Many types of crane flies stay in the woods, where their larva each fallen trees and dead leaves and vegetation. Those crane flies are not considered a problem, and while one or two might waft into a home that’s near their usual home, they’re completely harmless. 

However, many of the other types of crane fly are not so benign, and it’s all because of what they do to the plants that humans prize. 

While we don’t mind when crane fly larva eats vegetation in the woods, when they’re snacking on the roots of our lawns and eating crops that are growing in farmer’s fields, that’s a different situation completely. 

That might not sound so terrible, but a large outbreak of crane flies and their larva can decimate crops and cost farmers a lot of money. They can also damage your lawn and your vegetable garden. When that happens, it’s usually time to figure out how to get rid of crane flies! 

Will You Get Crane Flies?

If you live close to an area that often hosts crane flies like a forest or a marsh, there’s a good chance that you will get crane flies that wander out of those areas looking for new territory. 

If you have had crane flies in previous seasons, there’s also a good chance you will get them again. Because they have a short life cycle, even if you eradicate them in one season, they could very possibly come back again in the next or the one after that. 

Do I Need to Get Rid of Crane Flies?

If you only have a few crane flies in your home, you probably don’t need to panic. But if you see signs that crane fly larva have been using your lawn and plants as snacks, you probably need to think about taking action. Crane flies and their larva won’t go away on their own, and you might have this problem for several months or even years as they hatch, lay eggs and repeat the cycle. 

How to Get Rid of Crane Flies

If you have a crane fly problem, and you need to get rid of them, you need to have a two pronged approach. First, you need to have a plan to get rid of crane flies and their larva, and then you need to make sure they stay gone. Here’s how you can handle this in the various stages of their development:

Adult Crane Flies

Adult crane flies are harmless and can’t do anything to you, but they can be a nuisance, and they exist for only one reason – to make more crane flies! Which is the opposite of what you want. 

So if you see adult crane flies in your home, you still need to get rid of them. 

A bug zapper or any method you use to get rid of other flying insects will work well on adult crane flies, and screens on your windows should keep them out of your home. 

Crane Fly Larva

There are several ways to tackle a crane fly larva problem, and it’s usually best to take a multi prong approach. 

One way that many people swear by is to have your lawn aerated or do it yourself. Reducing the amount of water you give your lawn can also reduce the amount of crane fly larvae you have to deal with, because they prefer moist, damp places. 

If you have a serious crane fly infestation, you will probably need to bring in a pest control specialist. They have access to tools and products that most people don’t and can make sure you get rid of crane flies and their larvae for good. 

Crane Flies are Part of the Ecosystem

It’s important to remember, when you are thinking about how to get rid of crane flies, that even though they are pests when they are in human gardens and crops, they’re still part of the natural ecosystem, and we should only ever take action to get rid of them when it’s absolutely necessary. 

Crane flies, in their natural habitat, are an important link in the food chain, and they have natural predators like birds that will usually keep their numbers in check. So if you just spot the occasional adult crane fly in your home and you don’t notice any vegetation damage, it’s probably not necessary to call a pest control specialist. 

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