What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Stunging crane fly
Location: Wimberley, Texas
April 7, 2017 7:09 pm
I take crane flies out all the time. I was stung by Image 1 a few nights ago. I was so shocked bc it had NEVER happened to me or my children EVER! You can see the sting on my palm in image 2. Image 3 is another crane fly without a stinger–which is what the majority of mine look like! What’s up with that stinger? Im guessing one is male and one is female? It was quite a sting. I can still see the mark three days later.
Signature: Kristina Minor

Reportedly Stinging Crane Fly

Dear Kristina,
For years we have received reports of Crane Flies stinging individuals, and after verifying that impossibility with Dr Chen Young, we have speculated that the actual culprit is a Short-Tailed Ichneumon which does resemble a Crane Fly.  Your account is the first we have received that actually contained an image of the Crane Fly that reportedly stung (or bit) an individual, as well as an image of the irritated area on the body.  Furthermore, you seem quite familiar with Crane Flies, so we can’t help but to give your report credibility.  This does go against all we have learned of Crane Flies.  For that reason we will forward your information and images to Dr. Chen Young, a noted Crane Fly expert, to get his input.  The antennae on the individual you say resembles the majority of your Crane Flies are more developed, leading us to believe that is a male.  Stinging insects are generally female and a modified ovipositor, an organ used to lay eggs, is the stinging body part.

Site of the reported Crane Fly sting

Eric Eaton weighs in.
The “stinging” crane fly is simply a female.  I suppose a jab from her ovipositor might *feel* like a sting, but they are certainly not venomous.  The other crane fly with the bulbous rear end is a male.
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America

A non-stinging Crane Fly

That was one heck of a “jab.”  I still have the mark and I’m here to tell you it hurt for a while.  Ive attached the picture to show you what it looks like today–several days later.  When it happened, like image 2 in my previous email, it was white around the “sting” area and very red spreading from there.  That sure seems like a reaction to something?  Could they have evolved?  ;).  Getting smarter?  Wanting to survive?  LOL

Crane Fly “Sting”

Dear Kristina,
Thanks for providing a follow-up image of your “jab” after several days.  We will try to do some additional research.  According to the Crane Flies of Pennsylvania:  “The larvae are found in a wide variety of habitats, varying from strictly aquatic to terrestrial, even relatively dry soil.  Their habitats include fresh water in fast-flowing streams, marshes, springs, meadows, seeps, tree holes, algal growth or mosses on rock faces near water, organic mud and decaying vegetable debris along the shores of streams and ponds, accumulated decomposed leaves and rotting wood on the forest floor, and occasionally soil in lawn and pastures.”  Since the ovipositor is an organ the female uses while laying eggs, and since the stingers of stinging insects like wasps and bees is a modified ovipositor, we do not want to rule out the possibility that the ovipositor of a Crane Fly species that lays eggs in rotting wood might also penetrate human skin.

Entomologist and Crane Fly Specialist Dr. Chen Young Responds
Dear Daniel,
All I can say is that whatever stung Kristina was not a crane fly.  The ovipositor of female crane fly is not a defensive weapon but an egg laying apparatus, usually blunt instead of sharp at the end.
Chen Young


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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Wimberley, Texas
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7 Responses to Stinging Crane Fly???

  1. Cat Godley says:

    I, too, was recently “stung” by a crane fly. I have handled them for many years believing they were unable to sting, yet this crane like fly stung similarly to what was reported in the other post. It hurt a lot and was red and sore for days. Would love to find clarification!

  2. Jon says:

    I too have been “stung” by an insect that resembled a crane fly.
    Time to gather some video and some specimens I suppose…

  3. Jordan Batte says:

    Hello! I was just stung, or “jabbed” as well, with my story nearly identical to the original poster! I was glad to see I was not alone. I am also in Texas, south of Houston, and have never had this happen before. I have handled bugs, and crane flies my entire life, so I was shocked. I have a photo image as well if any entomologists need proof.

  4. Nick says:

    I am sorry Chen Young, but you are wrong. I dare you to grab a large female Crane Fly with your bare hand. Feel free to come to my house where you will be stung by Crane Flys. And I do agree they are not venomous however the female will penetrate skin and “poop” under your skin. I have verified all of this for years but never felt like google searching it until now. So for those of you who are being stung, you are being hit with the female end that can penetrate wood to lay eggs. Feel free to reach out if you feel I am wrong and I would be happy to educate you.

  5. Tara says:

    I was just stung or “jabbed” by one of these and it hurt!

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