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Crane fly

Crane flies
Scientific classification
Over 2000

The crane flies are a family (Tipulidae) of insects resembling giant mosquitoes. Like the mosquito, they are in the order Diptera (flies). They are sometimes, especially in Commonwealth English, called called "daddy longlegs" (a name shared with the spider-like harvestman (Opiliones) and the pholcid spiders) or sometimes "mosquito hawks" (but that name usually refers to the dragonflies). Crane flies do not eat mosquitoes or bite human. In fact, adult crane flies live only for a few days without feeding, only to mate (some species' adults may occasionally lap nectar, but never blood).

In appearance they seem long and gangly, with very long legs, and a long slender abdomen. The wings are often held out when at rest, making the large halteres easily visible. Unlike mosquitoes, cran flies are weak and poor fliers, therefore can be caught rapidly without effort. However, it is very easy to accidentally break their delicate legs when catching even without direct contact. Temperate species range up to 60-mm in size, while tropical species have been recorded at over 100 mm. They are attracted toward light. The females have swollen abdomen (because of eggs inside) in comparison to the males. The female abdomen also end in ovipositor that appear like sting, although functionally not so.

Adult crane flies feed on nectar, while their larvae, called leatherjackets, consume roots (such as of turf grass of backyard lawns) and other vegetation, in some cases causing damage to plants, therefore crane fly is occasionally considered a mild turf pest in some areas. Some leather jackets are aquatic.

At least 14,000 species have been described (most of them by the specialist Charles P. Alexander), making Tipulidae the largest family of Diptera. The Giant Crane Fly (Holorusia rubiginosa) of the West is 1 3/8". Some Tipula species are 2 1/2". There are many smaller species (bobbing gnats) are that mosquito-sized however, but they can distinguished by their the V-shaped suture on the thorax and a lack of ocelli.

They are the food source of many birds.

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See also: Crane fly orchid (Tipularia discolor)