Tiger crane flies are fascinating insects that often get mistaken for giant mosquitoes. Contrary to popular belief, these creatures are harmless to humans and do not bite. They have slender bodies and long, delicate legs, making them easy to recognize in your garden or near your home.
As a curious observer, you might wonder about the life cycle and habits of these fascinating flying insects. By learning more about tiger crane flies, you can understand their importance in the ecosystem and appreciate their presence rather than fearing them.
Throughout its life stages, the tiger crane fly undergoes various transformations. From larvae resembling plump, segmented caterpillars without legs to adults with a wingspan of up to two inches, these insects are an essential food source for various predators. By gaining knowledge on the tiger crane fly, you can share your newfound appreciation for these intriguing creatures with others.
Tiger Crane Fly: A Brief Description
The Tiger Crane Fly is a fascinating insect with distinctive colors and features. These crane flies exhibit red, yellow, and black stripes, giving them the “tiger” aspect in their name. Their yellow abdomen contrasts beautifully with the striking black stripe running along it.
Tiger Crane Flies are not only recognized for their colorful appearance but also for their ecological importance. You might find them in wet and damp habitats, such as marshes, damp woodlands, or even your garden.
Some features of the Tiger Crane Fly include:
- Red, yellow, and black stripes on the body
- Yellow abdomen with a prominent black stripe
- Long, slender legs typical of crane flies
To paint a clearer picture, let’s compare the Tiger Crane Fly with a Common Crane Fly. The Common Crane Fly has a more subtle appearance, with their bodies being grayish-brown and lacking the vibrant colors found in the Tiger Crane Fly. Additionally, they don’t have the black stripe that runs along the abdomen of the Tiger Crane Fly.
In terms of behavior, Tiger Crane Flies share similarities with other crane flies – they are harmless to humans and do not bite. Their larval stage plays a crucial role in breaking down organic matter in their habitats, contributing to a healthy ecosystem.
So, next time you come across a Tiger Crane Fly in your garden or nearby wetland, make sure to appreciate their unique appearance and their role in maintaining a balanced environment.
Taxonomy and Classification
The tiger crane fly belongs to the Tipulidae family, also known as crane flies. This family comprises about 15,000 species of insects. Crane flies are characterized by their long legs, slender bodies, and two wings. They can be found in various habitats worldwide.
Crane flies belong to the Order Diptera, which includes mosquitoes, midges, and other two-winged insects. Diptera is derived from the Greek words “di,” meaning two, and “ptera,” meaning wings. Dipterans have a single pair of wings used for flying, along with a pair of specialized hindwings called halteres for balance.
Infraorder Tipulomorpha is where crane flies are specifically classified within the Diptera order. Tipulomorphs typically exhibit the following features:
- Elongated, slender body
- Long, delicate legs
- Two wings with reduced venation
- Cylindrical-shaped antennae with more than six segments
The Subfamily Tipulinae consists of crane flies within the Tipulidae family. These insects are characterized by their varying sizes and wing patterns. Some common traits of the subfamily Tipulinae include:
- Antennae with 14 or fewer segments
- Extended proportions of the tibiae
- Wings with reduced anal veins
Lastly, the tiger crane fly belongs to the Genus Nephrotoma. This genus is known for its distinct tiger-striped pattern found on the wings and abdomen, which serves as a camouflage in their natural habitat. Other features of Nephrotoma species include:
- Bold, longitudinal stripes on the thorax
- Slender, elongated legs with a spiny appearance
- A wingspan ranging from 9 to 14 millimeters
In summary, the tiger crane fly is a fascinating species within the Tipulidae family and Order Diptera. Their unique features and classification within the Infraorder Tipulomorpha, Subfamily Tipulinae, and Genus Nephrotoma showcase the diverse and complex characteristics of these insects.
Identification and Appearance
Tiger crane flies, also known as mosquito hawks, can be easily identified by their distinctive features, such as their wing pattern, antennae, and ovipositor. This section will guide you through these key characteristics to help you recognize these fascinating insects.
Tiger crane flies usually have a brown to dark brown body coloration, which contrasts with the pattern on their wings. Their wings often feature distinctive dark spots or bands that resemble the stripes of a tiger. The wingspan of a tiger crane fly can range from about 0.4 inches to well over 2 inches, depending on the species.
Another characteristic that sets tiger crane flies apart from similar species is their antennae. They typically have long, thread-like antennae, with a substantial number of segments. Moreover, these antennae are often around the same length as their body or even longer. This feature can be quite helpful when trying to differentiate them from mosquitoes, whose antennae are generally shorter.
The ovipositor is the egg-laying apparatus of female tiger crane flies. It’s a slender, needle-like structure found at the end of the abdomen. The presence and shape of the ovipositor can be a useful clue in identifying tiger crane flies, as it’s quite distinctive from other insects such as mosquitoes.
To summarize, identifying a tiger crane fly involves examining its wing pattern (stripes or spots), antennae (long and segmented), and ovipositor (slender and needle-like). With practice, you’ll soon be able to recognize these unique creatures with ease.
Distribution and Habitat
The tiger crane fly can be found in various regions across the globe. You’ll primarily see them in North America, Europe, the UK, and parts of Asia. They typically thrive in habitats that are conducive to their lifestyle and feeding habits.
As a species that prefers damp, grassy places, you’ll often find them living near hedgerows and grass roots. Keep an eye out for them in your environment, as these insects are vital components of the ecosystem.
To get a better understanding of their habitat preferences, let’s dive into some key features:
- They often reside in low-lying areas with moist soil, such as meadows or marshes.
- Grassy environments provide both food and shelter for tiger crane fly larvae.
Maintaining a healthy, well-drained lawn in your yard can reduce the chances of crane fly infestations. It’s important to note that adult crane flies have very short lives – usually just one to two weeks. The larvae, however, have a greater impact on your garden.
Remember, the distribution and habitat of tiger crane flies can offer valuable information, helping you identify potential infestations or manage their presence in your outdoor spaces.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Tiger crane flies mate during their brief adult life. Males and females come together, often at night, to procreate. After mating, the females lay eggs in moist soil or decaying organic matter.
These eggs hatch into larvae, also known as leatherjackets due to their tough exterior. Larvae feed on decaying plant material and roots. In some cases, they may feed on seedlings or grass, depending on the species.
As the larvae grow, they go through several instars or developmental stages. During this time, they shed their skin multiple times, growing larger in each stage. Eventually, they start pupating.
Pupating is the phase where larvae transform into adult crane flies. This process takes place within a protective casing called a pupa, typically buried in the soil. After a few weeks, the adult emerges from the pupa, and the cycle begins anew.
- Mating occurs between adult males and females
- Females lay eggs in moist soil or organic matter
- Eggs hatch into larvae that feed on decaying plants and roots
- Larvae go through several instars before pupating
- Adults emerge from pupae to start the cycle again
Remember to keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures as they play a crucial role in breaking down organic matter in our ecosystem.
Diet and Feeding Habits
Tiger Crane Flies, like other crane fly species, have varied diets depending on their stage of life. As larvae, they feed mainly on plant roots, particularly those of hogweed. In this stage, they are known as leatherjackets. You might find them munching on the roots in your garden.
Once they transform into adults, their diet changes. Adult Tiger Crane Flies consume nectar and pollen from flowering plants. They do not harm plants, so consider them your friendly garden visitors. While feeding, they may even contribute to pollination.
To make your garden attractive to Tiger Crane Flies, you can:
- Plant hogweed and other flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen.
- Maintain a variety of plant life to ensure a continuous food supply throughout their lifecycle.
Remember to keep it balanced, as leatherjackets, in their larval stage, can be considered pests if they damage the roots of your plants. Always monitor their presence in your garden and take control measures if necessary.
Overall, understanding the diet and feeding habits of Tiger Crane Flies can help you manage their presence in your garden and appreciate the role they play in the ecosystem.
Predation and Threats
The tiger crane fly, like other crane fly species, faces certain predators and threats in their life cycle. For instance, you may not know that birds are one of the main predators of crane flies.
Some bird species prey on crane fly larvae as they find these juicy grubs in the soil. Crane fly larvae, or maggots, are usually about 2-3 inches long and have no legs, making them an easy target for hungry birds. However, a well-maintained turfgrass can help to reduce the impact of crane fly larvae feeding on the lawn, allowing the grass to recover even if birds feast on the larvae.
In addition to birds, other natural predators, such as predaceous ground beetles, can cause a significant decrease in the crane fly larvae population by as much as 50% during the winter months. These beetles, attracted to moisture, feed on crane fly larvae and help manage their population.
When it comes to managing tiger crane flies in your lawn, proper maintenance of turfgrass allows it to be more resistant to crane fly damage. This includes regular mowing, fertilization, and irrigation.
In conclusion, some typical predators of tiger crane flies include birds and beetles. By managing your lawn properly, you can make it more resistant to crane fly damage, helping to keep their populations under control.
Role in the Ecosystem
Tiger crane flies play a crucial part in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. As their larvae, also known as leatherjackets, develop in the soil, they feed on decaying plant matter and small insects. This aids in breaking down organic materials, helping enrich the soil and recycle nutrients.
Adult crane flies, on the other hand, serve as a food source for various predators like birds, spiders, and other insects. To give an example, predaceous ground beetles can help regulate crane fly populations during their development.
Tiger crane flies are also excellent indicators of the surrounding environment’s health. Since they are usually found near water, their presence could signal an ample water supply and well-preserved habitats for other organisms.
In summary, these creatures are vital to sustaining a healthy ecosystem, as they contribute to recycling nutrients, support the food chain, and act as environmental indicators. So when you see a tiger crane fly, know that it is playing an essential role in maintaining balance in the environment.
Misunderstanding 1: Mosquito Hawks
One common misunderstanding is that tiger crane flies are sometimes called “mosquito hawks” and are believed to kill and eat mosquitoes. However, this is not true. Crane flies, including tiger crane flies, are not predators of mosquitoes. Adult crane flies mostly feed on nectar, while the larvae are typically scavengers or herbivores feeding on decaying organic matter or plant roots.
Misunderstanding 2: Long-legged Flies
Crane flies, such as the tiger crane fly, might also be confused with long-legged flies because of their similar appearance. The two, however, are different groups of insects. Long-legged flies belong to the family Dolichopodidae while crane flies belong to the family Tipulidae. The main visual difference between the two is the size. Crane flies are usually larger than long-legged flies.
Misunderstanding 3: True Flies
Tiger crane flies are true flies. “True flies” is a term used to describe insects of the order Diptera, which includes crane flies, mosquitoes, house flies, and many others. These insects have only one pair of wings, while other winged insects have two pairs. The term “true flies” differentiates them from other insect groups like mayflies, dragonflies, and butterflies.
So, when you see a tiger crane fly, keep in mind these common misunderstandings. Tiger crane flies are not mosquito eaters, not the same as long-legged flies, and they are a part of the true flies order. Remembering these points will help you better understand these interesting insects and their role in the ecosystem.
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 – Stinging Crane Fly???
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Letter 2 – Crane Fly falsly accused of nasty sting
Location: Kissimmee Florida
February 3, 2012 3:11 pm
curious about this insect. It almost looks like a stump stabber wasp that I saw on you site, but this insect packs quite a sting. I decided not to include the picture of my swollen hand. Any info you could provide would be great. Location: Kissimmee, florida, total length of body is approx.: 1 inch. Two spotted in my apartment January 2012
Your swollen hand must be a result of some other trauma. This Crane Fly is a perfectly harmless creature that does not sting nor bite. Perhaps No-See-Ums which are small biting gnats are getting into your apartment. See BugGuide for a photo of No-See-Ums.
No, the sting was definitely from this insect. I was able to pick it up with tweezers and it was attempting to sting the tweezers. It felt like a bee sting.
What’s That Bug Requests a professional opinion from Dr. Chen Young at Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Here is the link and in the Introduction there is statement in the first paragraph that indicates crane flies are harmless. “They are often mistaken for mosquitoes, but they belong to a group of harmless flies.”
Just in case the person wants to know, this is a female crane fly in the genus Nephrotoma
Letter 3 – Tiger Crane Fly
Subject: Flying insect identification
Location: Pacific Northwest, Southwest Washington state
April 11, 2015 11:21 am
I live in a wooded area of southwest Washington state and saw this insect on the door of our shed. I tried to look up something on it, but can’t seem to find anything. You you please help?
Signature: Tia Miller
This distinctive insect is a Tiger Crane Fly, Phoroctenia vittata angustipennis. As it does not sting nor bite, it is a harmless insect.
Letter 4 – Crane Fly and its “sting”
Subject: Stung by a crane fly
Geographic location of the bug: Norway
Time: 02:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi!:)
I sat outside today and suddenly felt a sharp pain in my back. I slapped my hand on my back and killed a crane fly(i think)… i know that that was whAt stung me(photo). Do you agree that this is a crane fly? Or could IT be something else?
How you want your letter signed: Heidi Kristine
Dear Heidi Kristine,
This does indeed appear to be a Crane Fly and the irritation on your neck does appear to be a sting or bite. Over the years, we have always agreed with experts that Crane Flies do not sting or bite, including Dr. Chen Young who maintains the Crane Flies of Pennsylvania site where it states they are “a group of harmless flies,” but the images you have submitted are solid evidence to dispute that long standing scientific consensus. At the very least, it would seem the scientific community might need to investigate the possibility that some species of Crane Flies might be capable of stinging or biting. We will send your images to Dr. Young and to Eric Eaton to see if either would like to comment.
Eric Eaton provides input.
I’ll be real curious as to what Chen Young says. The image is definitely a female crane fly, but they do NOT sting. I suppose it could use its ovipositor to jab you, but then I don’t understand the dermatological reaction Heidi is showing.
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America
Letter 5 – Crane Fly allegedly stings human
Subject: mosquito hawk or other?
Location: Blacksburg VA
May 15, 2015 9:50 am
This is the notorious bug we’ve all been talking about! The debate is, “Does it sting?” I would say from my experience “yes”. I cupped it in my hand to place outside and Whammy! It got me. I have to admit the mosquito hawk and the wasp type bug look very similar. So that could be a contributing factor in this hub bub of ” to sing or not to sting”
Signature: Wendy g
Thanks for submitting an image of a Crane Fly, the subject to much debate in our comment section regarding stinging. According to all reputable information we have found, including the input from Dr. Chen Young, an expert in Crane Flies, they do not sting. Dr. Chen Young commented: “Here is the link and in the Introduction there is statement in the first paragraph that indicates crane flies are harmless. “They are often mistaken for mosquitoes, but they belong to a group of harmless flies.” http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/cranefly/introduction.htm#Introduction. We continue to stand by that position and we will continue to allow our readership to debate the issue in our comment section of postings, but we prefer to provide no additional What’s That Bug? feedback regarding the matter. According to Washington State University: “Adult crane flies do not damage your lawn, nor do they bite or sting. They are harmless.”
Letter 6 – Tiger Crane Fly
I am trying to find out what this insect is I need this for a yr 11 biology assignment. Thank you
Like you, we and our readers crave information. Most importantly, where was this insect located? We are also curious if the biology assignment is for an 11 year old and you are doing the research, or if it is for you. Is it an 11th grade assignment? or has the assignment been in the works for 11 years. Lacking a concrete answer to any of the questions we have, we can nonetheless reply to your query. This is a Tiger Crane Fly, Nephrotoma pedunculata, according to a matching image on BugGuide.
Letter 7 – Tiger Crane Fly
Orange fllying insect in Lancaster, CA
Location: Lancaster, CA
July 19, 2010 9:17 pm
I have never seen these before and now the grass in my yard has quite a few of these flying around, what is it?
How to handle?
Dear How to handle?,
We did not anticipate being able to easily identify your species of Crane Fly, but by doing a web search of Crane Fly and California, we were led to the UC Irvine website of the Flies of Orange County. It was easy enough to match your photo to the images of Nephrotoma wulpiana on the Flies of Orange County Crane Fly section. We verified that on BugGuide, where we learned that this is one of the Tiger Crane Flies and it is a west coast species reported from California and Washington.
Letter 8 – Tiger Crane Fly
Subject: Help with identification
Location: Northern CA, Pacific coast
May 12, 2015 12:15 pm
This photo was taken on May 2, 2015. In a broken branch of a cherry blossom tree. We live on the far northern Pacific coast in CA. Not far from the Oregon state line. Please help in determining what this is. At first I thought wasp, but not sure about that. Can’t seem to find any photos online that match this one. Hopefully it is a simple ID for you. My daughter and her friend initially discovered it, and I felt bad that I couldn’t tell them what it was with any certainty.
Thanks for any help!
Signature: Matt in NorCal
This impressive insect is a Tiger Crane Fly, a harmless species that benefits from its resemblance to a stinging wasp.
Daniel, just wanted to say Thanks for the information and quick turn around time! Fantastic site – I’m disappointed I only recently discovered it.
Have a great day,
Letter 9 – Possibly Tiger Crane Fly
Subject: Crane Fly?
Location: Indiana, USA
June 4, 2016 11:24 am
This appears to be a some form of Crane Fly on side of house, June 2016, but cannot ID.
This is one of the Large Crane Flies in the family Tipulidae, and we believe it resembles this Tiger Crane Fly, Nephrotoma eucera , that is pictured on BugGuide.