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

31 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!

  6. Mike says:

    I too was recently stung. Depending on the time of year, and how long the back door has been left open in the evening, it isn’t uncommon for me to find 3 or 4 floating around the house at any given time. For the last 30+ years, whenever I find one within reach, I gently cup it in my hand, open the back door, toss it out, and watch it fly away. Over the last year or two, I’ve noticed that some of these crane flies are a little bit different in appearance. While most of them have straight bodies, I’m beginning to see more and more with butts that are curved up. Other than that, they look the same to me. While carrying one of these buggers outside a few months ago, I was stung in the hand. And when I say ‘stung’, I don’t mean that it felt like a mosquito bite. No. The pain was almost as sharp as a bee sting. Not quite, but close. If the scientists want us all to believe that we all evolved from the birds and the bees, to the elk and the trees, and that a pelican evolved into a hippo, do you suppose it might just be possible that some of these crane flies may have evolved a stinger?

  7. Heidi Hjelmark says:

    Today i felt a sting on my back, I waved my hand and killed the bug that stung me. And it was a crane fly.. I tought it was something else,since cran flyes are not supose to sting. But I sent a picture of the bug to a entomologist,and he told that it was a crane fly, and they dont sting. Well yes they do! Its very very painfull.. no one believes me,but i know that that was what stung me. . i hope i never experience that again..

  8. Melissa Meyer says:

    I, too, was stung by a crane fly. Call it what you want; a jab, poke, whatever. It hurt badly and my reaction was to smash it. I sent a pic to the local university, and they confirmed it as a crane fly. I no longer handle them!


    Was ABSOLUTELY stung by a Crane Fly. Ouch. Two days later and I have a big, itchy, red welt.

  10. Kerrie Barrow says:

    I work in a warehouse next to a swampy oceanfront area. I see at least one or two of these a day, and recently decided to start killing the ones I saw. The same day I purposely killed one, I was stung by the next one I tried to kill. The bite was about an inch diameter, white hard lump, with about another inch red around that. It happened as I was swatting at it…itchiest bite/sting/whatever ever! Take into consideration that species evolve defensively.

  11. Steve C says:

    I just encountered a Crane Fly high up on the ceiling in our hallway. Not sure what it was (I only identified it after an internet search), I swatted it down with a broom….it fell to the floor injured and as I bent down to pick it up, I saw the “stinger” or ovipositor probing back and forth. I was somewhat surprised as the insect did not resemble a wasp, but the stinger – barb thing was definitely moving like that of a wasp/hornet. I was fortunately not stung like some of the other posters.

  12. Jennifer Dockter says:

    I was stung 2 days ago by a crane fly and it wasn’t even because I was trying to handle it. I was sitting outside minding my own business and it flew at me landing on my wrist then stung me. It was a pretty painful sting. Today it is super swollen and very itchy. My boyfriend was stung on his hand last year when he tried to catch one to release it outside. I don’t know why everyone keeps saying they don’t sting when clearly they do.

  13. Stacey Kaumo says:

    I’m here in canton Texas and after a couple of weeks of removing these guys with no incident, I was finally stung. Totally shocked I screamed ! It packs a nice little walp. Worse than a bee but not as bad as a wasp. VERY SHOCKING!

  14. sam says:

    me to, but it was red.

    i got a bite todat.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2019

  15. Codie D French says:

    Ok obviosly these crane flys bite!! Stop telling us they dont. My daughter was litterally just bit or stung in the chin by one and i had to kill it. Knowone can make me believe by any scientific anything that this dis not just happen. I believe what i see not what someone is trying to convince me. And she cried. It hurts and her chin is now red and swollen. I will be killing everyone i see from this point on.

    • bugman says:

      We are terribly sorry about your daughters unfortunate encounter.
      We have always relied upon the opinion of one of the most recognized Dipterists specializing in Crane Flies for our responses, but the numerous challenges and testimonials otherwise we regularly receive has created doubt, so we pose some alternate possibilities:
      A. Mutant insects that mimic Crane Flies and have evolved to protect Mother Earth to save her from mankind.
      B. Russian drones.
      C. Corporal manifestations from an alternate Universe.
      D. Mass Hysteria
      E. Other

  16. Codie says:

    Bugman.. You are an idiot. Not even worth a reply but seeing your mindless attempt at a reply, i will tell you that your source is obviously not up to speed on any of the habits of the female crane fly as you like you want to believe he is. I dont believe what i hear or by far what i read but i do believe in what i see. Goodbye felicia.

  17. Seneca Spurling says:

    all my life, I’ve believed these things to be harmless. got one in our camper van two nights ago, and cought it to put it out and wow, it bit or stung me. no idea which but it did hurt quite a bit, I shrieked loudly! the spot it got me on my palm was briefly red, but didn’t stay irritated for too long, it was gone by the next morning. the pain was bothersome for 10 to 15 minutes but then subsided. felt almost like burning, with waves of feeling something similar to an adrenaline rush. not something I wish to experience again, I will not handle anything like this again. unfortunately I don’t have a photo. certainly it could be some insect that’s much like a crane fly but different. if so, I’d like to understand what it was and how to tell it today. this was in Ashland, Oregon, at night. it seemed attracted to the light in my van. it flew like a crane fly, not exactly elegant. it was about an inch and a half in size.

    • bugman says:

      What’s That Bug? will no longer weigh in on the stinging potential of Crane Flies since so many of our readers seem to offer challenges to the long accepted opinion of experts that they do not sting nor bite.

  18. Drewfus says:

    I live in Iowa and have been stung by one of these upon attempting to carry it outside. I had no idea they were capable of stinging but they most certainly are and it is most very painful.

    • bugman says:

      We have always relied upon the opinion of experts like Dr. Chen Young that Crane Flies neither sting nor bite. You might have been stung by a similar looking Ichneumon.

  19. Bama says:

    I was stung by one over 30 years ago… Nobody believed me! And still dont to this day!

  20. Jewel Howard says:

    I just got stung by one of these so yes yes yes they do sting don’t let them tell you anything different I was just trying to find out if the sting was harmful.

  21. D Larson says:

    SE Colorado – I was definitely bit by a “innocent” believed crane fly. Picked it up to take it outside and it bit me. Week later still have a itchy bump.

  22. Anne says:

    Hello I’m in the UK. We have loads of innocent Crane Flies invading us at this time of year. Last week I was awakened from a deep sleep & felt “ something “ biting my neck( no not my husband ). I turned the light on and there on my pillow was a Crane Fly which was quickly dispatched! It left quite a hard itchy lump on my neck for several days. I’m 75. It’s never happened before. I’m guessing “ Evolution “.

  23. frazier says:

    hi I am in Holland, These evo’s have a couple of filamentous instars before the they reach 1mm and may even lay eggs in callus of the foot.

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