Bugs That Look Like Giant Mosquitoes: Meet the Harmless Doppelgangers

folder_openDiptera, Insecta
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Giant Crane Fly

Hi Kurt,
We believe your Crane Fly is a Giant Crane Fly, Tipula abdominalis. We searched the best Crane Fly identification site, the Crane Flies of Pennsylvania, and located it, and the double checked on BugGuide. According to BugGuide, the: “large size coupled with black velvety patches on thorax is diagnostic feature.” The Crane Flies of Pennsylvania site indicates: “The largest crane fly in the state of Pennsylvania, the adult of this species has a brownish gray thorax with a velvety black area on the dorsal side. The abdomen is orange with a black line on the side, and the posterior end of the abdomen is black. The wings are semitransparent with several brown areas along the front edge. The females reach about 40 mm in size, while the males are slightly smaller. The larvae of this species are aquatic and among the largest and most common aquatic invertebrates in streams of wooded areas, and are sought out as bait for fish. Larvae feed on decomposing leaves, thus playing an important role of breaking down organic matter in the water. Two generations occur, more numerous in late summer than in spring.”

Giant Crane Fly
Giant Crane Fly

Letter 2 – Giant Eastern Crane Fly

Wasp family or bizarre fly?
I found this at my fathers cottage today near Maniwaki, Quebec (Canada). It was hanging on the siding first thing in the morning and was there when we left in the evening. It was around three inches long (from leg tip to leg tip). After browsing your wonderful site, I thought it might be some sort of wasp (related to the Pelecinid) but it seems to fall into the fly category as it has only two wings plus halteres. Any help would be appreciated.

Good call on the fly. This is a Giant Eastern Crane Fly, Pedicia albivitta. Because they are so distinctive, we have split Crane Flies from other flies and given them a distinct page on our site.

Letter 3 – Giant Crane Fly

Crane fly species (large!)
Here’s a Crane Fly species… I’m in the San Francisco Bay area, is there an endemic species hereabouts? Those are rose bush leaves that it’s landed on… Total size, (including legs) was larger than my hand – and I’ve got large (male) hands! I now realize I should’a provided information on my hand size… my hand measures 8″ across (or about 21 cm…) and the legs on this guy/gal were a little (maybe 1 cm) wider than that… another shot (from a different angle) is attached. Sorry about focus, but that’s a 50mm macro at f/32… Exposure time lost to history.

Hi Paul,
This is not the Giant Western Crane Fly, Holorusia rubiginosa, but we are not sure what species it is. We will do some additional research.

Letter 4 – Giant Eastern Crane Fly

What the heck is this thing?
I know this is thing is pretty common, but if you could let me know what this is we have a pool at the office?
Apostolos T. Nacopoulos
WRB Architects
2550 West 8th Street
Erie , Pennsylvania

Hi Apostolos,
Let us know who wins the pool. This is a Giant Eastern Cranefly, Pedicia albivitta. It can achieve a wingspan of well over three inches. Adults do not eat despite carrying the colloquial common name of Mosquito Hawk.

Letter 5 – Giant Cranefly

not a dragonfly…. not a daddy long leg
Hello, My name is Anthony. I am from Long Island, New York. Today, November 7th, I took a picture of the strangest bug on my front porch. I estimate the it to be 4 inches across. It has two wings and six legs. Could you tell me what bug that is? Take your time, I know you are very busy.
I JUST sent you an email. Someone suggested a Crane Fly. I think
that may be it. Thank you anyway, and is my friend right??

Hi Anthony,
Your friend is right, it is a Giant Crane Fly.

Letter 6 – Giant Eastern Crane Fly

Long legged large beauty
August 31, 2009
Visiting a friend on Deer Isle in Maine, I found this creature on her screened in porch. It was late August. Not able to find anything close to it in my Peterson guide. Pretty large – It’s body alone was about 2 1/5 inches long. Any ideas?
Deer Isle, Maine

Dear Gianna,
Your spectacular photograph of the spectacular Giant Eastern Crane Fly, Pedicia albivitta, is a wonderful addition to our site.  According to BugGuide:  “This species is one of the largest [Crane Flies] in northeastern United States and Canada, the other being Tipula abdominalis.”  Since it is the first of the month, there is always a bit of a lag time for our new postings to have images show live.

Letter 7 – Giant Eastern Crane Fly

Flying Insect
Location: Amery, WI (Northwestern Wisconsin)
September 18, 2011 2:07 am
Dear Bugman,
Late last night, aroung 1:30 am, I opened the door to let my dog outside, and in flew a very strange bug. It sort of fell into the house on the carpet. It seemed like it couldn’t fly all that well. It was darting up, trying to fly, but it would just fall back on the floor. I would guess that the body was around 2-3 inches long. I would really like to know what kind of bug this is. It’s very creepy looking! Thank you!
Signature: Tonja Williamson

Hi Tonja,
The markings on the wings of your Giant Eastern Crane Fly,
Pedicia albivitta, are very distinctive.  Crane Flies are harmless creatures that have a feeble flight.  According to BugGuide:  “larvae are aquatic; adults may be found on nearby vegetation and may be attracted to artificial light.”

Letter 8 – Giant Eastern Crane Fly

Subject: Pretty bug
Location: Sandy Hook, CT
October 13, 2012 6:14 am
This insect was about 2” long. It was on the outside of a window on a sunny day in late September. I was struck by the artistic patterns on the legs and wings – looked decorated like an American Indian pot.
Signature: Curious

Dear Curious,
This impressive specimen is a harmless Giant Eastern Crane Fly,
Pedicia albivitta.  According to BugGuide:  “larvae are aquatic; adults may be found on nearby vegetation and may be attracted to artificial light.”

Letter 9 – Giant Crane Fly

Subject: What is this bug? North-Central Minnesota
Location: Duluth, MN
July 26, 2014 5:00 pm
Good evening,
We are trying to figure out what this bug is and we really have no idea. I would say it is between 2-4 inches long with antennae. Any help would be great!!
Signature: Stephen R

Dear Stephen,
This is a Giant Crane Fly,
Tipula abdominalis, and you can compare your image to this series from BugguideAccording to BugGuide:  “adults often attracted to light.”

Letter 10 – Giant Crane Fly

Subject: thought it was a huge crane fly at first glance
Location: New York/Connecticut Border
September 21, 2014 6:58 pm
… but then I realized it was a bit different. it’s wings are swept back fully and it appears to have a sharper tail than most. also absent are the nubbins of secondary wings on the crane fly.
spotted on my car in southern NY state (Purdy’s, NY) this last Saturday. had driven from nearby Connecticut but I am pretty sure it landed on my car after having parked for dinner. I’d estimate he was almost 3 inches long from front legs to rear legs.
Signature: Eric R.

from perusing your site a bit more I see it is most likely is a giant crane fly. great site, will definitely refer to it in the future!

Dear Eric,
In comparing your image to images on BugGuide, we agree with your identification of a Giant Crane Fly,
Tipula abdominalis.

Letter 11 – Giant Crane Fly

Subject: Insect identification
Location: Warren County, NJ
September 21, 2014 4:11 pm
Hey Bugman,
I saw this interesting character on my front window in western New Jersey.
I’m curious as to what it is.
Signature: Jojo

Hi Jojo,
We posted another image of a Giant Crane Fly earlier today.  Giant Crane Flies are attracted to lights.

Letter 12 – Giant Eastern Crane Fly

Subject:  winged insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Tioga Co, PA
Date: 09/06/2017
Time: 03:46 PM EDT
I found this bug on the wall of our hunting cabin in Wellsboro, PA….looks kind of like a Snakefly, but wondered if y’all could ID it for me.
How you want your letter signed:  Ginette

Dear Ginette,
This magnificent creature is a Giant Eastern Crane Fly,
Pedicia albivitta.  According to BugGuide:  “two distinct flight periods: usually May/June and September/October” so this sighting is right on time.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • My wife saw what she assumed to be. A crane fly but it’s body was about the size of a regular cigarette with a wingspan of maybe 10 inches. She’s not squeamish about bugs so that is probably close.

  • I found one of theses in my house (top picture) but it looks totally black. I live in Washington the state which is pretty far from Arkansas.

  • I am in PA and I just saw three of them. Giant Crane fly. Looked just the picture.


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