You’ve seen them flying around the porch at night. They look like enormous mosquitoes. Their bodies are an inch long or more, and their long, spindly legs can be three inches across. They’re crane flies, but they have a lot of names.
Common names for crane flies include:
- mosquito hawks
- skeeter eaters
- Texas mosquitoes
Some people are put off by their size; others think they’re giant mosquitoes. Crane flies do look like Jurassic mosquitoes, after all. There is a large mosquito called the gallinipper, but it’s nowhere near the size of a crane fly. Just to add to the confusion, many people like to see them around because they think they eat mosquitoes.
What Exactly Are Crane Flies?
There are over 15,000 species of crane flies. They’re classified in the order of “true flies,” like mosquitoes, but they’re in separate families. That’s why they look so much alike, but that’s where the similarities end.
So they’re not mosquitoes, but what about the belief that they eat mosquitoes? Unfortunately, they don’t.
Crane flies don’t bite, either. They generally don’t eat. Many don’t even have mouths. Adult crane flies live for no more than 15 days, and all their attention is focused on reproduction. They sometimes eat sap from a handy plant, but most just don’t eat at all. They don’t have stingers, either, and they’re not known to carry any diseases, unlike mosquitoes.
A female crane fly will mate within a day of pupating and lay her eggs on grass. Those eggs will hatch into larvae. They live in the soil, eating roots for the most part. This is how crane flies survive through the winter. The larvae get up to three inches long before they become adults. They sometimes eat grass roots and can create large brown patches in your yard in autumn.
So while crane flies can’t hurt you, they can be a nuisance. At times they can turn up in large numbers looking for mates. They can be very distracting to anyone hoping to sit out on the porch or work in the yard in the evening. Contact a pest control professional if crane flies or mosquitoes disturb you.
How To Tell Crane Flies From Mosquitoes
While crane flies and mosquitoes are often mistaken for each other, there are several key differences. Female mosquitoes bite humans, dogs, cats and other animals to lay eggs. They can also carry diseases and transmit them to humans through their bites. Crane flies don’t bite humans. They eat in their larval stage by feeding on plant matter.
Also, the appearance of a crane fly and mosquito differs. Mosquitoes, pictured below, are generally smaller and slender, measuring in at anywhere between a tenth of an inch in length to nearly half an inch in length. Meanwhile, crane flies, pictured at the top of the page, are larger, measuring in at a length of half of an inch to nearly an inch in length. Crane flies also have long legs and a bulkier body.
Are Mosquitoes Out at Night?
Crane flies seem to be around most in the evening, which is when many types of mosquitoes are also most prevalent. That may be another reason some people think they eat mosquitoes. But when do mosquitoes come out? Different species of mosquitoes have different habits, but rest assured they can be found 24/7 if the weather is above 50 degrees.
There are dozens of species of mosquitoes found at any point in the U.S. They are the primary vector for many viruses and diseases that affect humans and the animals around us. The list of viruses spread by mosquitoes seems endless, including:
- West Nile
- Rift Valley fever
- Yellow fever
- Eastern equine encephalitis
The full list runs to around 50 viruses, variously affecting humans and just about any mammal or bird. Of course, the male mosquitoes aren’t a problem; they live off plant sap and don’t bite. The females need blood to nourish their eggs.
Here is some basic information about some common mosquito species.
Most Common Types of Mosquitoes
The common house mosquito prefers to feed on birds (especially chickens and pigeons) rather than humans. They will happily follow you into the house, though. Females will often hide in sheds and holes in a type of hibernation that often makes people wonder if mosquitoes sleep. Any time the temperature gets above 50 degrees, they will come out to look for a quick bite.
The Southern house mosquito is likely responsible for most human mosquito bites. Like the common house mosquito, this one also has no problem coming into the house with you. They are active all night and will bite you in your sleep. Once fed, they like to rest on houseplants.
The yellow fever mosquito is happy to feed on humans, indoors or out, day or night. Yellow fever mosquitoes are the primary vector for both dengue and Zika viruses.
The Asian tiger mosquito is a fairly recent invasive species, arriving here from East Asia in 1985. Asian tiger mosquitoes are nearly double the size of other common species, and their bite is painful. They are one of the few mosquitoes that will bite reptiles, though they prefer people. Asian tiger mosquitoes don’t handle cold weather well, but they have begun showing signs of adapting to our winters.
Do Mosquitoes Die After Biting?
Female mosquitoes need to feed on blood before each batch of eggs they lay. Since each female can lay at least five batches of eggs (and often quite a few more than that), they will bite several people or animals during their lifetime. Mosquitoes are not like bees that die after stinging. Once they’ve had their fill of blood, female mosquitoes go find someplace to take a good nap. That’s when her eggs are formed. Once she’s fully rested, she’ll head out to find a wet place to lay from 50 to a few hundred eggs. Then she starts the process over again.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself From Mosquitoes?
While it often takes the work of a licensed professional to keep mosquito populations low, even the pros will tell you there are things you can do to repel mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes can bite through clothing, but loose-fitting clothing does provide some protection—certainly more protection than bare skin.
Avoid Shady Areas
During daylight hours, avoid shade. Even mosquitoes that feed during the day avoid direct sunlight because it dries them out quickly. They stick to the shade under trees, porches and sheds. If you want a shady retreat with minimal mosquitoes, isolate it. A gazebo or picnic pavilion located by trees will have more mosquitoes than a shade structure built out in the middle of the yard with sunshine all around.
Fix Holes In Screens And Around Doors
Check your doors and windows. Mosquitoes will come in with you if they happen to be in the right place at the right time, but more often than not, they get into houses through gaps in weatherstripping or holes in window screens. It doesn’t take much of a hole to provide mosquitoes a way into your home.
Eliminate Standing Water
Probably the biggest change you can make is to remove standing water around your yard. Mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water. Check old tires, bird baths, unused animal water bowls–anything that can hold water. Turn them upside down or move them to where they won’t pick up and hold water.
What about something like a bird bath, though? Keep the bird bath clean to reduce mosquitoes. Be sure to hose out the birdbath at least once a week. Mosquito larvae live for a week or more in the water. If mosquito eggs get laid in your birdbath, and you wash it out every week, none of those larvae will survive to become adults.
Spray Repellents Can Help
Lastly, you can repel mosquitoes. Spray-on repellents with DEET are effective but don’t worry about buying repellents with more than 50% DEET. Studies show the extra chemical doesn’t help repel mosquitoes. The same can be said for mosquito-repellent plants. It takes a lot of them to keep mosquitoes at bay.
ABC Can Reduce Mosquito Populations on Your Property
Don’t let pesky mosquitoes ruin your time outdoors. For a multi-tiered approach to mosquito control, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. We will create a pest treatment plan that best suits your yard and needs.