Name: Tipula oleracea.

Alias: Common crane fly, mosquito hawk or skeeter eater. Although crane flies have the title of “mosquito hawk” none of them merits the title. Contrary to popular belief, they do not eat mosquitos. Quite often they will pass the entire portion of their adult life without eating at all. The adults live anywhere from two to 14 days and die shortly after mating. The adults are quite large and look like giant mosquitoes. Most of their life is spent in the larval stage. The larvae are small, wormlike grubs with leathery skin that can be tan or gray.

Crimes: The larvae feed through the winter on the roots and crowns of grass plants, causing turf grass and pastures to look thinned or dead in the early spring. This thinned look attracts birds like starlings that will come and dig holes in the sod trying to find the larvae. As adults they are terrifying to see land on your tablecloth.

Redeeming Qualities: They may look scary, but they are completely harmless as adults.

Sentence: The larvae need a humid environment to survive. Populations can be kept to a minimum by reducing the amount of water used on our pastures and turfgrass, strategically in the late summer and early fall when the larval growth is most critical. Most carbaryl- or pyrethroid-based insecticides will kill crane fly larvae. Applications should be done in the early spring as soon as damage is noticed. Always read and follow pesticide labels.

For more information on dangerous and beneficial bugs, call UI Extension educator Joseph Sagers at 208-745-6685 or email

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