Are these Crane Flies?

Insect Collection

Are these Crane Flies?
Location:  Wilmington, Delaware
October 3, 2010 12:53 pm
We are doing a bug project in fith grade. My school is The Independence School in Delaware. I’ve been collecting insects in the past 4 months. I have these 3 flies that look almost the same. I know the one at the right bottom is a Crane Fly. The other two I could not identify in the bug guide. The top one has 1 pair of wings and the abdomen/tail ends with a bulb. The bottom left fly has two pairs of wings and a skiny abdomen. The eyes are bigger and it looks more like a Dragonfly or a Damselfly, but the legs are very long. Can you please help me? Thanks
Signature:  Austin


Dear Austin,
First we want to congratulate you on doing your research well for your science project.  We will respond to the easier of your two queries first.  The Crane Fly with the bulb shaped abdomen is actually a male.  Females have pointier abdomens.  An excellent resource for information on Crane Flies is the Crane Flies of Pennsylvania website.  The Morphology page of the site indicates this:  “Abdomen is long and slender and with nine evident segments.  The apex of abdomen in male enlarged into a club-shaped hypopygium, in female extended into elongate, acutely pointed ovipositor.  They can be sexed visually in the field by these two characters.
The bigger mystery is the extra pair of wings.  We don’t know if this is a genetic mutation or something else entirely, but if it is a mutation, we suspect some museum would love to have your specimen.  We are going to contact Dr. Chen Young, and expert in Crane Flies, but a few days ago we got an “out of office” reply to an email indicating that he is collecting in the field.  It appears that you have three Crane Flies and one is an aberration.  Identifying the exact species of Crane Flies is a real challenge and we do not feel confident enough to attempt anything conclusive.  With that said, the individual on the right of your photo showing all three might be Tipula paterifera, based on a comparison to photos posted to BugGuide.  We hope Dr. Young gets back to us soon to solve the other mystery.

Crane Fly male

CORRECTION:  Thanks to Eric Eaton
Not a crane fly.  This is a “hangingfly,” a type of scorpionfly in the order Mecoptera, family Bittacidae:
Neat find!

Thanks so much Eric.  We feel a bit embarrassed at this moment because the thought of a Scorpionfly did run through our mind, yet we didn’t research that before posting.

Dr. Chen Young provides some identifications
October 5, 2010
Hi Daniel,
This bug is not a trur fly it is a hangingfly in the family Bittacidae of the order Mecoptera.  It does look like a crane fly except it has four wings.

Thanks Chen,
I have already learned about this embarrassing misidentification.

Hi Daniel,
Hey we all make misidentifications and mistakes.
The two crane flies in his project are:  the male is Tipula borealis
and the female is Tipula oleraceae, one of the two introduced european crane flies.
I have already forwarded my answer to your mating crane flies from India to you.  Let me know when you get it.

Update from Austin
October 8, 2010
Dear Mr. Marlos,
Thank you for your help.  My project is to collect 10 insects and identify them.  My teacher gave us 8 orders to find and pin. We are allowed to find two from the same order.  Now, this would be the 9th order not on her list.  I am glad that I found an order that is not on her list.  I will send you a picture of my project when I am done.  It is due on Oct 18, 2010.
I like your web site.  It helped me a lot on my insect project.  I could not identify some of the insects until Mrs. Godsey told us about your web site.  The first time I logged into your site, one of the insects was your bug of the month for September.  It was the Stump Stabber, Giant Ichneumon.  I found it during my summer vacation in Canada.  I could not identify it for a long time before then.  I was so excited when there it was on your front page.  Then I saw a leaf footed bug picture someone had send you a question.   And there it was again look just like one of my insect.
Thank you and have a great weekend.

Dear Austin,
We are happy that you and your teacher, and hopefully your entire class, has found our website helpful.  It is our mission to try to share a sense of wonder with the lower beasts and to educate the public regarding the important place these bugs fill in the intricate web of life that occupies our fragile planet.  It is also refreshing to hear from such an industrious student since we get so many desperate requests to do people’s homework when they realize that they have procrastinated on their entomology collection projects.

3 Responses to NOT Four Winged Crane Fly: Two Crane Flies and a Hangingfly

  1. cali17 says:

    Your mystery crane fly is actually a hanging fly. The description on bugguide says that they look just like crane flies only with four wings.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for this correction. We also got a correction from Eric Eaton and we have adjusted the posting so that it now provides the correct identification.

  2. Grace says:

    In Saskatchewan we call these guys “Skeeter Eaters”.
    Thanks for the info, as per usual!

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