Though crane flies are often called “mosquito hawks,” likely due to their appearance—they look like a large, extra intimidating mosquito, and have also been rumored (incorrectly) to prey on mosquitoes for food—the two insect species are actually unrelated.
Crane Fly vs. Mosquito
As their name might suggest, crane flies are a species of fly. These flying insects don’t dine on mosquitoes, much less on humans or any other type of animal—much to the dismay of homeowners hoping that crane flies might help with mosquito population control. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, consume animal blood as an important part of their diet. Read on to learn more about these two varieties of insects, including their similarities and differences and which is most likely to win in the crane fly vs. mosquito showdown.
The biggest similarity between crane flies and mosquitoes is the fact that they are flying insects that share a passing resemblance. These two insect species also both live in water during their larval stages and both species have invaded most regions of the world, thriving especially well in wet regions. As far as comparable qualities, however, that’s about the extent of it.
Crane flies and mosquitoes share far more distinguishing characteristics than similarities—the biggest difference between them being their bite, or the lack thereof.
Mosquitoes must eat to live. As larvae, they live in water and eat algae, while adult mosquitoes can live on plant nectar. But female mosquitoes need both lipids and protein in their diets in order to lay eggs, which is why they also feed on the blood of humans, dogs, cats, mice and birds. Even worse, mosquitoes are able to carry diseases and transmit them to humans by way of those bloodsucking bites.
Incidentally, the term “mosquito bite” is a bit of a misnomer. While it implies that these insects chomp into your skin the way you might bite into a sandwich, the reality is closer to sucking blood through a straw. A mosquito inserts a tube-like appendage called a proboscis into your skin, using it to probe around for a suitable blood vessel before sucking your blood straight from your vein into its body.
Mosquito bites can be intensely itchy and they can also cause serious illnesses in humans. Zika, malaria and dengue fever are just a few of the mosquito-borne illnesses that can have potentially lethal or otherwise devastating results for humans.
Unlike mosquitoes, crane flies don’t bite humans at all, or sting them. In fact, these insects eat only in their larval stage, when they feed on grasses and other plant matter. Adult crane flies have no need to eat, since they don’t live very long. Thus, unlike mosquitoes, they have no way of biting humans or anything else, or of transmitting disease.
Another difference between these insects lies in their infestation patterns. Both crane flies and mosquitoes can infest outdoor living spaces. Annoyingly, however, mosquitoes can take up residence in your home, especially if you have indoor drains or potted plants that collect standing water. While crane flies might accidentally get inside your home from time to time, they won’t stay long. Since their life cycle is short, they’re most likely to spend any time indoors bouncing against the walls or ceiling until they either escape back outside or die.
How to Get Rid of Crane Flies and Mosquitoes
A mosquito infestation in your yard is obvious. When spending time outdoors, you’ll be pestered by the whine and itchy, stinging bite of these annoying little bloodsuckers. You might find small mosquito larvae twitching in pools of standing water that has collected in flowerpots or birdbaths. Mosquitoes can also thrive indoors in homes that have potted plants with moist soil or standing water collecting in drains. Again, the signs will be obvious. That annoying whine in your ear, a ticklish itch on your skin at the moment you’re bitten and the red, itchy welts that result from the bites of these irritating pests.
Crane fly infestations may be less obvious, especially since these insects don’t bite and are essentially harmless to humans. A large number of crane flies can, however, cause real damage to your yard. If sections of your lawn are patchy and yellow or brown in color, or have even been eaten down to the soil, you may be dealing with an infestation of crane flies. Like mosquitoes, these insects live in water or moist soil in their larval stage. Since they consume grasses and other plant matter as larvae, they can destroy the health and appearance of lawns and pastures.
Since both mosquito and crane fly larvae live in water, successfully controlling infestations of both insects must include resolving drainage problems and eliminating damp areas from your yard and home. Dump out water that collects in planters and other receptacles after a rain, and resolve any yard drainage issues to encourage drying and aeration at the root level. Rake and dispose of dead leaves, since both crane flies and mosquitoes can thrive in moist piles of leaves and soil.
So Who Wins the Crane Fly vs. Mosquito Showdown?
Given their ability to destroy an otherwise gorgeous lawn, crane flies definitely give mosquitoes a run for their money. But since crane flies are harmless to humans and have a lifespan of only a few days, ultimately, the prize for Most Annoying and Potentially Dangerous Mosquito-Like Insect has to go to mosquitoes themselves.
With their penchant for human blood, mosquitoes are irritating at best. Those bites can be intensely itchy, and for people with more sensitive skin, they can lead to enormous red welts that are truly uncomfortable. Even worse, mosquito bites can actually cause serious illnesses including Zika, malaria and encephalitis. With their ability to transmit deadly diseases, it’s no wonder mosquitoes are so reviled the world over.
Whatever the Pest, ABC is the Solution
Homeowners have enough on our plates without having to worry about becoming a citizen entomologist. If your efforts to control common household pests on your own aren’t successful, it’s time to call ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our in-house entomologists and pest control specialists will work with you to determine the right solution for your problem, so you can enjoy your home and yard without having to deal with patchy grass, itchy bites or worse.