Leather Jackets Bugs: All You Need to Know for a Pest-Free Wardrobe

Leather jackets are a fashion staple that many people adore for their classic style and durability. However, the world of leather jackets also houses some intriguing insects commonly referred to as leather jacket bugs. These bugs belong to the Jadera species, and the most well-known of them is Jadera antica. This bug can be identified by its brownish-salmon color, spotted upper surface, and size, which ranges from 7.5 to 11 mm in length and 2.5 to 4.0 mm in width [^1^].

While these bugs share a name with the fashionable accessory, it’s important to note that they are not a reason for concern when it comes to wearing leather jackets. Leather jacket bugs primarily feed on plants and are not harmful to humans or animals[^2^]. However, it’s interesting to know that such curious creatures exist and share a name with our popular fashion piece.

Leather Jacket Bugs: Overview and Identification

Leather Jackets and Crane Flies

Leather jacket bugs, commonly known as leatherjackets, are the larval stage of crane flies, often referred to as daddy-longlegs or European crane flies (Tipula paludosa). These insects belong to the Tipulidae family and are prevalent in grassy areas, causing damage to plants and lawns.

Physical Characteristics

Leatherjacket grubs are distinct from adult crane flies in appearance:

  • Leatherjacket grubs (larvae):
    • Greyish-brown in color
    • Tubular, legless body
    • Approximately 1 inch (25 mm) long
  • Adult crane flies:
    • Long, slim bodies
    • Wings and long, thin legs
    • Resemble large, gangly mosquitoes

Here is a comparison table to highlight the differences between leatherjacket grubs and adult crane flies:

Features Leatherjacket Grubs (Larvae) Adult Crane Flies
Color Greyish-brown Brown or grey
Size/Length Around 1 inch (25 mm) 1.5 – 2 inches (40 – 50 mm)
Legs None 6 long, slim legs
Wings None 2 large wings
Mobility Limited, mainly underground Active fliers, above ground

Leather Jacket Life Cycle and Behavior

Eggs and Hatching

  • Leather jackets lay their eggs in soil during late summer (August-October).
  • The hatching process occurs within 2-3 weeks after being laid.

Larval Stage

  • Leather jackets get their name from their larval stage appearance.
  • They are grayish-brown larvae found on plant roots and grass roots.
  • They can cause yellowish patches on grass as they feed on roots.
  • The larvae overwinter in soil during mild winter, maintaining feeding behavior.

Pupation and Development

  • Pupation starts in early spring with the formation of a pupal case.
  • During this stage, the larvae undergo metamorphosis and develop into adult crane flies.
  • The process takes 2-4 weeks, depending on environmental conditions.

Emergence of Adult Crane Flies

  • In spring or autumn, adult crane flies emerge from their pupal cases.
  • The adult stage is short-lived, lasting only a few days to lay eggs and restart the life cycle.
Stage Timing Habitat Diet
Eggs and Hatching Late summer (Aug-Oct) Soil N/A
Larval Stage Autumn/Winter Soil, Grass/Plant roots Plant and grass roots
Pupation Early spring Pupal case in soil N/A
Adult Crane Flies Spring/Autumn Above ground N/A

Leather Jacket Damage and Infestation Signs

Damaged Grass and Lawns

Leather jacket bugs can cause significant damage to grass and lawns. Examples of damage include:

  • Discolored or yellowing grass
  • Thinning turf
  • Uneven surfaces

Presence of Patches and Dead Grass

Infestations often result in patches of dead or dying grass. These patches may be irregularly shaped and vary in size. Dead grass is usually caused by leather jacket bugs feeding on the roots of the plants.

Increased Bird Activity

Birds such as crows, magpies, rooks, and starlings are attracted to leather jacket bugs as a food source. Increased bird activity in your lawn or garden can be an indication of a leather jacket infestation.

Affected Plants and Seedlings

Leather jacket bugs can also affect small plants and seedlings. They feed on the surface layers of the soil, causing damage to:

  • Flower beds
  • Vegetable plots
  • Stems of young plants

This damage can stunt the growth of your garden plants, leading to long-term issues if not addressed.

Damage Infestations
Yellowing grass Patches of dead grass
Thinning turf Bird activity
Uneven surfaces Stunted plant growth

Prevention and Control of Leather Jacket Infestations

Biological Control

One effective method for controlling leather jacket infestations is using nematodes. These microscopic organisms infect and kill leatherjackets, reducing their population in the soil. Specifically, Steinernema feltiae is a commonly used nematode for this purpose.

Apply nematodes as a preventive measure in September to early October, when leatherjackets are most prevalent.

Chemical Control

Unlike biological control, chemical control relies on chemicals to combat leather jacket infestations. However, many chemical options have been withdrawn due to environmental concerns. It’s essential to use approved and environmentally friendly chemicals if necessary.

Physical Traps and Barriers

Physical barriers, such as black plastic or black polythene sheeting, can trap leatherjackets. Place the material on the surface of the lawn overnight. Leatherjackets will be attracted to the dark, damp environment, making it easier to collect and remove them.

Lawn Maintenance and Recovery

Proper lawn care can prevent and help in recovering from infestations:

  • Scarify: Remove dead grass and moss to improve lawn health.
  • Aerate: Enhance oxygen flow and drainage by perforating the soil.
  • Overseeding: Apply grass seed to promote thick, healthy growth.

Furthermore, maintaining lawn health makes it less attractive to leatherjackets and other pests such as chafer grubs, wireworms, and cutworms.

Comparison of Control Methods:

Method Pros Cons
Biological Control Environmentally friendly, effective May require multiple applications
Chemical Control Potentially fast-acting Environmental concerns
Physical Traps No chemicals, reusable Time-consuming, manual removal
Lawn Maintenance Prevents infestations, promotes recovery Regular effort required

Impact of Animals and Natural Predators on Leather Jacket Populations

Birds and Insects

Birds, particularly crows, magpies, and rooks, play a significant role in managing leather jacket populations. These birds are known to consume the larvae of leather jackets, helping to keep their numbers in check.

Some predatory insects, like ground beetles and rove beetles, also help control leather jacket populations by preying on their larvae.

Mammals

Mammals, such as foxes and badgers, contribute to controlling leather jacket populations as well. By feeding on the larvae, they help decrease the overall number of these pests in an area.

Comparison Table: Predators of Leather Jackets

Predator Type Prey Stage
Crows Bird Larvae
Magpies Bird Larvae
Rooks Bird Larvae
Ground Beetle Insect Larvae
Rove Beetle Insect Larvae
Foxes Mammal Larvae
Badgers Mammal Larvae

*Note: The table above highlights different predators of leather jacket larvae and the type of animal they are.

By understanding the animals and natural predators that impact leather jacket populations, we can better appreciate the role they play in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem.

Relationship to Leather Jackets and Motorcycling

Leather Jacket Maintenance

Caring for your leather motorcycle jacket is essential for its longevity. Here are some tips:

  • Cleaning: Wipe the jacket with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris.
  • Conditioning: Apply a leather conditioner to prevent drying and cracking.

Example:

When cleaning your jacket, use a gentle, lint-free cloth. For conditioning, try Leather Honey, a popular choice among bikers.

Faux Leather Jackets

Faux leather motorcycle jackets are an alternative to genuine leather. Here are some key differences:

  • Price: Faux leather is typically more affordable.
  • Maintenance: Faux leather requires less care and upkeep.
  • Ethical considerations: Some people prefer faux leather due to animal welfare concerns.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy maintenance
  • Animal-friendly

Cons:

  • Less durable than genuine leather
  • Prone to peeling or cracking over time

Comparison Table:

Feature Leather Jacket Faux Leather Jacket
Price $$$ $
Maintenance Higher Lower
Animal-Friendly No Yes
Durability High Moderate

In conclusion, leather and faux leather jackets both have a place in motorcycling culture. Choose the option that aligns with your priorities and preferences.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Leather Jackets evacuated in the rain

 

larvae (I think), gray-brown, hundreds of them, most around 1 inch long, 1/4 inch diameter, have two little spikes at the back and a little head in the front.
January 19, 2010
Found after the rain under the carpet on front porch. I brushed them all off the porch. Today again hundreds of them under the rug. No idea where they come from. Cement porch meets soil on one side.
Marianne
Van Nuys, California

Crane Fly Larvae: Leather Jackets

Hi Marianne,
The threat of a flooded habitat due to our Southern California series of deluges has caused the mass evacuation of these Leather Jackets from your garden.  Leather Jacket is a common name for a Crane Fly larva.  According to Charles Hogue in his wonderful book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, “The stout worm-like larvae (called leather jackets because of their thick dark skin) live in damp loose soil or leaf mold and feed on the root of herbaceous plants  In the spring, when such food supplies and moisture abound, large larval populations may develop and produce swarms of adults.”  The adults look like giant mosquitoes, but they are harmless.  BugGuide has numerous images of Crane Fly larvae, but nothing that resembles your phenomenal aggregation.

Crane Fly Larvae: Leather Jackets

Thanks so much. I hope as many as possible survive the “flood”. They look pretty ugly, but I googled a picture of an adult, and I think they are very beautiful, so delicate.  It’s so great to have your site available! Thanks again.
Marianne

Comment:
January 22, 2010
Thanks for posting this!  I live in Canoga Park, and I too had literally hundreds of these worm like larvae on my back patio, trying to invade my home!  I am glad I was able to identify them!  –
Rich

Update:  NOT (see next comment) Invasive Species
February 2, 2010
Daniel
Great work as always!  Just some info regarding leather jackets.
There are two invasive European Crane Flies on the loose here in the US and they are serious pests. Most crane flies are harmless but these larvae can cause serious damage to lawns and seedlings.  The post on January 21st is definitely one these pests spp.  It is not uncommon for invasive species to be found in large numbers.
We have both spp. here in Michigan.  Both are new state records for 2009.
Some of your earlier crane fly posts are the exotics spp. as well such as on Oct 20,2009 where you mentioned they are harmless ( not to humans yes but to plants).
The links below have good information and some ID keys as well.
Links:
http://whatcom.wsu.edu/cranefly/tipulaid.html
http://whatcom.wsu.edu/cranefly/index.htm
Just thought your readers should know.
Faithful Reader
Brian Sullivan

Chen Young responds
February 6, 2010
Hi Daniel,
Good to hear from you.  I have looked both of the images and none of them are the introduced European crane flies.  Noticed the middle lobes of the larvae are very dark and sharp which is not the character for the European crane flies.  The middle two lobes of the European crane fly larvae are soft and flesh like.  I don’t have an image with me now at home but I will send you one Monday when I get to work at the museum.  By the way, we are having a big snow storm and everything is closed for that matter thus I don’t think I will venture out to the museum  to get the image.
As for adult flies you can also check here http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/cranefly/tipulinae.htm#Tipula_(Tipula)_paludosa for comparison of the two species.  These two species have also been reported recently in Michigan, New York, New England states, and Utah.  It will eventually in Pennsylvania.
Okay, I will send you image of the European crane flies on Monday.
Chen

Letter 2 – Leatherjacket

 

Subject:  A weird worm looking insect
Geographic location of the bug:  California
Date: 01/09/2018
Time: 11:28 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw this bug in my dogs water just floating at the bottoms and didn’t know what exactly it was, I asked family and  they said it was a “moth caterpillar”  I looked up moth caterpillar and I have to admit it looked very similar to this one but this one seems a bit darker and it was still alive after I put it in water added soap AND oxi clean. I ended up smooshing it with my sink drainer making sure it doesn’t like start a nest or something then I let it go down the drain. So what bug is this? Why was it still alive after I drowned it in water soap and oxy clean? Please answer because at first I thought this was some sort of parasite and at this point I’m not sure and I VERY worried for my dog.
How you want your letter signed:  Marcus Wade

Leatherjacket

Dear Marcus,
This looks to us like the larva of a Crane Fly, and it will not harm your dog.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  Crane Fly larvae are sometimes called Leatherjackets because of their hard exoskeleton.  Because of the large amount of rain last year, Crane Flies were quite common in Southern California last year.

Letter 3 – Leatherjackets

 

What is this?
Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 3:36 PM
These were found in an old acorn mortar in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles in February. They don’t move when touched.
Richard
Santa Monica Mountains, California

Leatherjackets
Leatherjackets

Hi Richard,
These look like Leatherjackets or Leatherbacks, the larval form of the Crane Fly, a group of flies in the family Tipulidae.

Letter 4 – Leatherjackets

 

Subject: what is this
Location: uk
January 6, 2014 2:03 am
Hi I get these all over my patio and patio door what are they? Especially when it rains they are everywhere
Signature: Thanks

Crane Fly Larvae
Leatherjackets

We believe these are terrestrial Crane Fly Larvae or Leatherjackets, and your comment about them emerging after a rain is very consistent with their habits.  Here is a Getty Images file of a Leatherjacket from the UK identified as Tipula padulosa.  Lawn Science has an image and a video of Leatherjackets.

Leatherjacket
Leatherjacket

Hi
thankyou so much ive been going crazy!! How do I get rid of them please?
Regards
Lauren Maidment

Hi Lauren,
We do not provide extermination advice.

 

Letter 5 – Leatherjackets in England

 

Subject: What is this bug
Location: Berkshire
April 8, 2014 2:02 am
I have hundreds of these bugs on my driveway, getting more each day
Signature: Sam Rutter

Leather Jackets
Leather Jackets

Dear Sam,
You have Leatherjackets, the larvae of Crane Flies.  They often become noticeable after a rain.  Getty Images has an image of a Leatherjacket that is identified as
Tipula padulosa.  According to The Garden Safari:  “The larvae, which may be up to 4 centimeters, are called leatherjackets. They are responsible for quite some damage in a lawn because it eats the roots of grass. And the lawn is most effected at times it is most vulnerable which is in winter. The larvae of the European Crane Fly are extremely able to sustain winter conditions and remain active even in spite of severe freezing temperatures. The adults are absolutely harmless as they don’t eat anything at all. This species is common all over Western Europe. It has also invaded the United States, where it is considered a real pest.”

Leatherjacket
Leatherjacket

   

Letter 6 – Male Giant Crane Fly

 

Subject: Strange long legged fly
Location: Fenton, MI
May 29, 2016 7:08 am
My kids found this bug and would love to know what it is!
Signature: Robert Fravel

Male Giant Crane Fly
Male Giant Crane Fly

Dear Robert,
Based on this BugGuide image, we are relatively confident this is a male Giant Crane Fly,
Tipula abdominalis.  According to BugGuide:  “adults fly from May to October.”

Reader Emails

96338

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Leatherjackets appear after rain in Los Angeles

 

Ed. Note:  We received an early telephone call from our neighbor Lisa Anne who used our personal email address to submit these images

Subject:  Worm invasion
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
Date: 01/07/2019
Time: 09:53 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What are these?????
How you want your letter signed:  Lisa Anne

Leatherjacket

Dear Lisa Anne,
These are the larvae of Crane Flies, commonly called Leatherjackets.  Expect to see a robust population of adult Crane Flies this spring.

Leatherjackets

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.

  • 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.

4 thoughts on “Leather Jackets Bugs: All You Need to Know for a Pest-Free Wardrobe”

  1. These are also edible.
    There are scattered reports of their consumption by Native American groups. I’ve never tried them, and I doubt that they’d be easy to mass produce — unlike, for example, soldier fly larvae that look fairly similar and which are extremely easy to “farm.”

    Dave
    http://www.smallstockfoods.com

    Reply
  2. Thanks for posting this! I live in Canoga Park, and I too had literally hundreds of these worm like larvae on my back patio, trying to invade my home! I am glad I was able to identify them! -Rich

    Reply
  3. I live in NYC in a basement-level apartment. Yesterday I noticed a fairly large patch of muddy dirt (about 5 inches by 5 inches) near one of my doors. I’m very clean so I was taken aback by this random spot. I looked closer and there was, what I think, was one of the leatherjacket larvae in the midst of this mud. It looked to be dying because it was lying on it’s side and slowly contracting it’s body repeatedly. I am so confused about how it got there and where this mud came from. I saw no trail to indicate that it had crawled from some hole in the wall or whatnot. Any ideas what happened? Are leatherjackets even common in NYC?

    Reply

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