How to Get Rid of Crane Flies: Easy and Effective Tips

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Crane flies are large, gangly insects that resemble giant mosquitoes, often found near water sources. Although the adults do little harm, their larvae can cause significant damage to lawns by chewing on grass roots during their growth in spring. To protect your lawn and keep it healthy, it’s essential to know how to manage and prevent crane flies from infesting your garden.

One effective approach is adopting simple maintenance and irrigation practices which can go a long way in preventing crane fly larvae from damaging your grass. Proper lawn care can make your yard less inviting to these pests, while ensuring its long-term health and attractiveness. In the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss some methods to help you get rid of crane flies and protect your lawn from potential damage.

Understanding Crane Flies

Crane Fly vs Mosquitoes

Crane flies and mosquitoes are often confused due to their resemblance. However, there are some key differences:

Feature Crane Fly Mosquito
Body size Larger Smaller
Legs Long, delicate Shorter, less delicate
Wingspan Wider Narrower
Antennae Simple, short Longer, feathery
  • Crane flies are harmless.
  • Mosquitoes can transmit diseases.

Life Cycle of Crane Flies

Crane flies have a four-stage life cycle:

  1. Egg
  2. Larva
  3. Pupa
  4. Adult
  • Adults live for around two weeks.
  • Larvae are the stage that cause damage to lawns.

Common Species and Habitats

Two common species of crane fly are:

  • Marsh crane fly
    • Found in the Pacific Northwest
    • Multiple generations per year
  • European crane fly
    • Also present in the Pacific Northwest
    • One generation per year

Crane flies are usually found near water sources.

Identifying Infestations

To identify a crane fly infestation, look for:

  • Large, gangly insects with long legs
  • Damage to lawns, caused by larvae feeding on grass roots

Damage Caused by Crane Flies

Lawn and Garden Damage

Crane flies can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens. The most common issues are:

  • Damaged turf
  • Thinning grass
  • Brown patches

These problems occur due to the crane fly larvae feeding on the roots of grass and plants, weakening their overall structure and health.

Crane Fly Larvae and their Feeding Habits

Crane fly larvae, also known as leatherjackets, have specific feeding habits that cause damage to lawns and gardens.

  • They feed on roots and crowns of grass
  • Active during spring and fall
  • Prefer moist soil conditions

Lawn care plays a crucial role in preventing and controlling crane fly damage. Some effective measures include:

  • Proper irrigation
  • Regular aeration
  • Using appropriate pesticides
  • Timely fertilization

A comparison of damage between two common crane fly species, marsh crane fly and common European crane fly:

Marsh Crane Fly Common European Crane Fly
Multiple generations per year One generation per year
More frequent damage Less frequent damage

In conclusion, being aware of crane fly larvae feeding habits and taking proper lawn care measures can help prevent and control damage to lawns and gardens caused by these pests.

Natural Measures to Control Crane Flies

Encouraging Natural Predators

Attracting natural predators like birds, spiders, and predatory insects can help control crane flies in your garden. Here are some ways to encourage these predators:

  • Install bird feeders, birdhouses, and a bird bath to attract birds.
  • Add nematodes and fish to your garden ponds to control larvae.
  • Foster a diverse ecosystem to support a variety of natural predators.

Example: A bird bath will invite more birds to your garden, helping to reduce crane fly numbers.

Maintaining Lawn Health

A healthy lawn can defend itself against crane flies and their larvae. Here are some tips on maintaining a robust lawn:

  • Keep soil enriched with organic matter to encourage healthy grass growth.
  • Apply neem oil as a natural deterrent for crane flies and other pests.
  • Introduce beneficial nematodes into your soil to target crane fly larvae.

Proper lawn care can make a significant difference in managing crane fly populations.

Comparison Table

Encouraging Natural Predators Maintaining Lawn Health
Installing bird feeders, birdhouses, and bird baths Enriching soil with organic matter
Adding nematodes and fish to garden ponds Applying neem oil as a natural deterrent
Fostering diverse ecosystems for predators Introducing beneficial nematodes to soil

Chemical Methods to Eliminate Crane Flies

Insecticides for Larvae and Adults

One effective method of controlling crane fly infestations is using pesticides targeting both the larval and adult stages of the pest. For larvae management, insecticides like imidacloprid can be applied to infested lawns.

Adult crane flies can be controlled with pyrethroid-based insecticides such as lambda-cyhalothrin. When using insecticides, follow the manufacturer’s application guidelines to ensure safe and effective pest control.

Benefits of using insecticides:

  • Targets specific life stages, increasing effectiveness
  • Can provide quick results in pest reduction if applied correctly

Drawbacks of using insecticides:

  • May have negative environmental impacts if used excessively
  • Can affect non-target species, such as beneficial insects

Preventative Treatments

A proactive approach to controlling crane flies involves using preventative treatments. Products like neem oil can deter adult crane flies from laying eggs on treated surfaces, thus reducing future larval infestations. Neem oil is a natural insecticide derived from the neem tree, making it a more eco-friendly option.

Benefits of using preventative treatments:

  • Helps to reduce future infestations
  • Neem oil is a more environmentally friendly option

Drawbacks of using preventative treatments:

  • May require repeated applications for continuous effectiveness
  • Not as effective on existing infestations

Comparison Table

Treatment Target Environmental Impact Effectiveness
Imidacloprid Larvae Moderate High
Pyrethroid Adults Moderate High
Neem oil Deter Egg-Laying Low Moderate

Preventing Future Crane Fly Infestations

Seal Entry Points and Improve Drainage

To prevent crane flies from entering your home, ensure that all doors and windows are properly sealed. For example:

  • Install tight-fitting screens on windows
  • Seal gaps around doors with weatherstripping

Improving drainage around your home can also help reduce crane fly infestations. For instance:

  • Clear gutters regularly
  • Ensure downspouts are directing water away from the foundation

Lawn Care and Maintenance Practices

Proper lawn care can minimize crane fly damage by reducing their larvae’s food source and living conditions. Some best practices include:

  • Mow your lawn regularly with a recommended height of 2-3 inches
  • Water your lawn deeply but infrequently, ideally in the early morning and not during winter

By following these simple steps, you’ll create a less inviting environment for crane flies and drastically decrease the chances of an infestation.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – NOT Four Winged Crane Fly: Two Crane Flies and a Hangingfly


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.

Letter 2 – Cranefly


Large winged insect in Seattle
Hi there,
I found your site while browsing after taking a picture of a large insect that was perched on the back of one of our deck chairs – calmly hanging out all days as the kids ran around etc. Cool character. Hard to measure in the photo but I would say its body was about 2.5" from front to back. I saw a similar pair mating later but haven’t seen one since, and never here before. From other pictures on your site I thought it might be an Ichneumon? Hope the picture is good enough to identify…
Thanks in advance!
Rev. Ed

Good Morning Rev. Ed,
This is a Cranefly in the Family Tipulidae. They resemble giant mosquitos, but are harmless. They often enter houses being attracted to lights.

Letter 3 – Cranefly


cool site!
Very interesting site. I have a couple of bugs I can’t identify. Both from Southern California. I appreciate any help you can give me.
Ron Drake

Hi Ron,
Your other photo is of the gangly Cranefly. These harmless creatures are the largest flies and are often attracted to lights at night.

Letter 4 – Cranefly


We are being invaded by these bugs which are about and inch long. I have lived in Tucson Arizona all my life and have never seen these.
Can you help?

Hi Meredith,
Even though your Cranefly looks like a giant mosquito, it is harmless. Craneflies often enter homes because they are attracted to lights. They will neither damage you nor your home.

Letter 5 – Cranefly with Aphid Exoskeleton


hitchhiker on a crane fly
Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 11:10 AM
I was taking pictures of the moths and bugs surrounding our outside light last night and after enlarging this shot of a crane fly I noticed this little white guy waving from a rear leg while hanging on for dear life. I know crane flies don’t carry their young around so I was wondering what it is. I sent you a larger file so you can enlarge it enough to see the critter.
Sonoma County, California

Crane Fly with Hitchhiker
Crane Fly with Hitchhiker

Hi Larry,
When we saw your subject line, we thought the hitchhiker must be either a mite or a pseudoscorpion, the two common phoretic organisms that are frequent subjects of our identifications. Phoresy is a nice scientific name for opportunistic hitchhiking. Your creature appears to be an insect, though we are uncertain of its identity, and we wonder if the hitchhiking may have been accidental. We will check with Eric Eaton to see if he has an opinion on this.

Phoretic Insect? or Accidental Hitchhiker???

Update: Wednesday, 22 April 2009
LOL!  I’m sorry, I just had to laugh.  The “hitchhiker” is a shed exoskeleton, most likely from an aphid that might have used the crane fly’s leg as a place to perch while molting.  I laugh out of empathy because I’ve made the same kind of assumption myself, many times, when presented with unfamiliar circumstances.

Letter 6 – Cranefly


Subject: Termite or predator?
Location: Bellevue, Washington
April 10, 2013 8:56 pm
Removing a flowering cherry tree that was rotting out from the inside. Seems to be a thriving termite colony inside. But in addition to the workers, larve, and soldiers, I saw some winged insects associated with colony, but they don’t seem to match any photos of winged termites. I was wondering if you could identify the mystery bug. Are they termites, or are they munching on termites?
Signature: Tom


Dear Tom,
This is a Cranefly and we don’t believe it has any connection to the termites.  We found a matching photo on BugGuide that was found in a rotten stump.  Eric Eaton provided a comment stating:  “There is at least one common wood-boring species in the Pacific Northwest. I ran across a log full of the larvae and pupae once, before I knew what they were! Pretty bizarre.”

Thanks for the answer. I am familiar with the lawn variety crane fly, but these were new.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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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