How to Get Rid of Crane Flies Naturally: Simple and Effective Methods

Crane flies can be a nuisance in gardens, lawns, and outdoor spaces due to their incessant presence around lights, windows, and plants. Getting rid of them naturally is an eco-friendly and healthy approach to protecting your green spaces from damage.

There are numerous natural methods for controlling and eradicating crane flies, making it easier to choose the best option for your space. With the right techniques in place, you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor areas in peace and without unwanted guests.

Understanding Crane Flies

Life Cycle and Habitat

Crane flies, belonging to the fly family Tipulidae, are often mistaken for mosquitoes due to their long legs and slim bodies. Adult crane flies can have a wingspan of up to two inches, making them much larger than mosquitoes1. Their life cycle consists of four stages:

  1. Eggs: Laid in moist soil or water habitats
  2. Larvae: Appear worm-like, approximately 2-3 inches long, and feed on decomposing organic matter
  3. Pupa: Gray to brown, roughly 1 inch long, and do not feed
  4. Adult: Long legs, wings, and antennaed, clumsily flying insects with a length of about 0.5 inches2

Adult crane flies are most commonly found around water sources, whereas their larvae live in soil, especially lawns3.

Crane Fly Damage

While adult crane flies are harmless and typically don’t cause damage, their larvae are known to create problems for lawns. Crane fly larvae chew through patches of grass, damaging the roots and affecting the overall growth in spring4. To prevent crane fly damage, consider implementing regular lawn maintenance and appropriate irrigation practices5.

Crane Fly vs. Mosquito:

Feature Crane Fly Mosquito
Size 0.5 inches long, 2-inch wingspan1 Smaller than crane flies
Legs Long legs2 Shorter legs
Larvae Live in soil3 Live in water
Adult habitat Around water sources3 Various habitats, often near humans

Natural Predators and Control Measures

Using Birds to Control Crane Flies

Birds are natural predators of crane fly larvae, helping to control their population in North America. Attracting birds to your garden can reduce the number of larvae, leading to fewer adults.

  • Bird feeders: Provide bird feeders with a variety of seed types suitable for different birds.
  • Bird baths: Install bird baths to offer fresh water and attract more bird species.
  • Birdhouses: Set up birdhouses to encourage nesting and establish a permanent avian presence.

Beneficial Insects

Introducing beneficial and predatory insects can also help manage crane fly populations by preying on the larvae. Here are two examples:

  1. Predatory beetles: They feed on crane fly larvae, providing a natural and chemical-free method of control.
  2. Others: Some other insect species also target crane fly larvae, preventing damage to your lawn.

Consider the following pros and cons of using natural predators:

Pros Cons
Chemical-free and environmentally friendly May not eliminate the entire population
No damage to lawns from chemical use Takes time to establish predator presence

By employing these natural techniques, you can reduce crane fly populations without resorting to harmful chemicals or difficult practices.

Preventive Lawn Care Techniques

Promoting Adequate Drainage

One of the keys to preventing crane fly infestations is to ensure that your lawn has adequate drainage. This helps in two ways:

  • Less standing water: Crane flies are attracted to wet areas, and having proper drainage prevents their larvae from thriving.
  • Healthy roots: Good drainage promotes healthy plant roots, which can better withstand crane fly damage.

To encourage adequate drainage, follow these tips:

  1. Aerate your lawn in early fall to reduce soil compaction and improve water penetration.
  2. Install a French drain or other drainage system if your lawn is prone to heavy water accumulation.
  3. Use a well-draining soil mix when establishing a new lawn or overseeding existing turf.

Encouraging a Healthy Lawn

A healthy lawn is more resistant to crane fly damage and can recover from the harmful effects of crane fly larvae feeding on plant roots. Here are some measures to maintain lawn health:

  • Mow regularly: Mowing at the right height encourages dense turf growth and helps prevent brown patches. Aim for a mowing height of 3-4 inches and never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at once.
  • Fertilize: Apply fertilizer in late summer and early fall to strengthen grass roots and prepare your lawn for winter dormancy.
  • Irrigate: Water your lawn deeply but infrequently, about 1 inch per week in the growing season. This allows the grass to develop deep root systems while discouraging shallow-rooted weeds.

By addressing the underlying issues of poor drainage and unhealthy lawns, you can naturally prevent crane fly infestations without resorting to chemical control methods. Employ these preventive lawn care techniques to protect your lawn from damage caused by crane flies.

Natural Remedies and Alternatives to Chemicals

Using Neem Oil or Insecticidal Soap

To naturally get rid of crane flies, consider using neem oil or insecticidal soap as a safer alternative to harmful chemicals. Here is a simple comparison of the two methods:

Neem Oil Insecticidal Soap
Made from neem tree seeds Made from potassium salts
Has systemic effects Contact insecticide
Safe for beneficial insects May harm some beneficial insects

Both are effective at controlling crane fly larvae without using dangerous chemicals like imidacloprid or pyrethroid-based insecticides.

When applying either neem oil or insecticidal soap, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Homemade Garlic Spray

Another natural remedy to get rid of crane flies is to create a homemade garlic spray. Here is a simple recipe:

  1. Crush or blend 10-15 garlic cloves.
  2. Mix the crushed garlic with 1 gallon of water.
  3. Let the mixture sit overnight.
  4. Strain it and pour into a spray bottle.

Spray the mixture around your garden or onto plants that are affected by crane flies.

Some advantages and disadvantages of this method include:

Pros:

  • Non-toxic and safe for the environment
  • Inexpensive, using readily available ingredients

Cons:

  • Can harm some beneficial insects
  • May not be as effective as commercial products

By using these natural remedies, you can control crane flies while avoiding harmful pesticides and chemicals. Just remember to apply the treatments regularly and consistently for the best results.

Discouraging Crane Fly Infestations

Removing Excess Moisture and Debris

Crane fly larvae, also known as marsh crane fly, thrive in wet soil and damp environments. To prevent infestations, try:

  • Proper watering: Avoid overwatering your lawn and allow it to dry between waterings, especially during the larvae’s active period in early spring.
  • Drainage improvement: Assess and improve your lawn’s drainage system to prevent standing water which can attract crane flies.

Regularly removing debris, such as fallen leaves and grass clippings, can also discourage adult crane flies from laying their eggs.

Monitoring Crane Fly Numbers

To prevent and control larvae damage, it’s crucial to monitor crane fly numbers in your lawn. One method of monitoring is by:

  • Scouting: In late winter or early spring, scout your lawn for crane fly larvae by examining the soil. Look for the presence of the 2-3 inches long, legless maggots.

By identifying a potential infestation early, you can take appropriate measures to reduce their numbers and minimize damage to your lawn’s ecosystem.

Marsh Crane Fly Adult Crane Fly
Habitat Wet soil Around water
Damaging stage Larvae None
Key management Moisture control Debris removal

Footnotes

  1. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/crane-fly-larvae-in-turf 2
  2. https://agsci.colostate.edu/agbio/ipm-pests/crane-flies/ 2
  3. https://extension.arizona.edu/crane-flies 2 3
  4. https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9296/html
  5. https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9296

Authors

    by
  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts

14 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Crane Flies Naturally: Simple and Effective Methods”

  1. I love Jamie’s photo of the phantom crane fly. I’m writing a nonfiction article about the phantom crane fly for my next course assignment and would like permission to use this photo in my article. Please let me know!
    Thanks,
    Loretta

    Reply
    • Hi Loretta,
      Here at What’s That Bug? our submission form is a release form to post content to our website, be it visual or written, and we reserve the right to use the content in the future in What’s That Bug? authorized publication. The official copyright for the imagery remains with the photographer, but we often grant permission to reproduce content from our site for educational and nonprofit uses. You have our permission to use this image for your article, but please credit the photographer with the name and location the photographer provided.

      Reply
    • Hi Loretta,
      Sorry about the delay. The photographer is really the copyright holder of the image, but we reserve the right to publish letters and photos submitted to us, and to reproduced them in What’s That Bug? authorized publications. We generally grant permission to reproduce content from our website for educational purposes and other nonprofit uses. We have no problem with you using this image for the purpose your requested.

      Reply
  2. I really like Corey’s photo of the phantom crane fly. The white leg bands show up well next to the shirt. If granted permission, I would like to use this photo in an article I’m writing in my writer’s course. Let me know!
    Thanks,
    Loretta

    Reply
    • Hi Loretta,
      Sorry about the delay. The photographer is really the copyright holder of the image, but we reserve the right to publish letters and photos submitted to us, and to reproduced them in What’s That Bug? authorized publications. We generally grant permission to reproduce content from our website for educational purposes and other nonprofit uses. We have no problem with you using this image for the purpose your requested.

      Reply
  3. I found a phantom crane fly at my shcool during an outside assembly. I thought it was a flying water spider lol. It scared me so much. Bridgewater new jersey

    Reply

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