Facts on the crane fly

Updated April 17, 2017

The crane fly, or daddy long legs, is of the genus Tipula. There are thousands of species of crane flies, although they are hard to differentiate between the species. Most crane flies lifespan last only about 14 days but have been known to live up to a month. The main function for the adult crane fly is to mate. Shortly after mating, an adult crane fly dies.


The crane fly has a greyish brown colour body. Males have a smaller wingspan than females. The male may only has a 3.1 to 3.7 cm (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch) wingspan, while a female's wings will span up to 5 cm (2 inches). The wings are somewhat cloudy with a small white stripe along the edge. Adult crane flies can be as long as 2.5 cm (1 inch) and are often mistaken for a large mosquito. Crane flies have six long legs that can break, making it a fragile insect. Even though a crane fly looks like a mosquito, it does not bite humans.

Life cycle

The adult crane fly comes out of pupae from the soil in late summer or early fall. The female crane flies mate and lay eggs within 24 hours of emergence. Larvae are also called "leather jackets" and hatch from eggs that feed on the roots of plants during fall. The larvae remain mostly underground but occasionally will come out at night to feed on plants in warm damp conditions. During the winter, they do not feed but in spring, they develop from larvae into pupa. In the pupa stage, they metamorphose into adults and emerge starting a new life cycle.


The adult crane fly normally does not eat but has been found to feed on plant nectar. The crane fly larvae diet is made up of decaying organic matter. The larvae will also feed on grass, roots from crops, sprouts from seeds, some flowers, vegetables and fruits. Crane fly larvae can be a problem to a lawn. The larvae feed on grass roots, damaging the grass, causing brown spots to materialise.


The crane fly prefers damp wooded areas, streams or flood areas. Some species of crane flies can remain submerged in water for a limited time when their habitats become flooded. The larvae survive in different habitats. They can live in water or on land. They can survive living in springs, lawns, trees, streams or on moss and ponds. Larvae can also survive in wood in the forest or decomposing leaves. The crane fly is most active during the early evening when it is coolest and some species are active in the winter.


The crane fly benefits the ecosystem. The crane fly is food to birds, spiders and some carnivorous plants will feed on the crane fly. The larvae contribute by breaking down decomposing matter that enriches soil. The crane fly is used as fishing bait especially for trout fishing. Many artificial fishing lures are made to resemble a crane fly.

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About the Author

Prisca Rollins majored in accounting in college and minored in business. She was a Vet and Surgical Tech in the Army and a contractor with the US Army as an Admin and Marketing Coordinator overseas. Rollins is TESOL certified and has taken the PHR and Life, Health and Annuity Insurance Course.