Pick an Insect Day – The Crane Fly

Good Morning All,

Today I’ve been distracted….. have you ever glanced out of the corner of your eye and seen a Mozzie which looks like it just stepped out of your worst night mare….. a massive beast with super long kinky legs plus orange and black stripes (surely the bite would be agony in the form of pain as well as itchiness), but hang on something seems to be missing….

Crane Flie 3

Crane Flie 2  Body shot small

Yep, there is no long proboscis…..Meet the Crane Fly, in this case (I think) specifically the Tiger Crane Fly (Nephrotoma Australasiae).  I’ve seen these guys around and never been harrassed, but always wondered where they fit in? (And if I accidentally stepped on one, how bad would it be!)

I will firstly apologise for my dependence on wiki references for this blog as there appears to be only that reference (and other people blatantly copying that reference), unless I venture out to my friendly local Entomology Library. So forgive me.

First a quick squizz at the classification before we investigate whether we need to be concerned about him being in our garden, let alone near our flesh.

Tiger Crane Fly Classification copy (Reference 1, Reference 2, Reference 3)

Interestingly enough, it appears that the Infraorder Tipulomorpha includes a significant number of the insects from the Triassic and Jurassic times, most of which are now extinct. (Reference)  Many specimens of Crane flies have been found in fossils, often embedded within tree sap (amber).  I’m sure I’ve see Sir David Attenborough gesticulating over such an item!

From the scant literature the follow appears to our specific ancient friend:

  • The normal location for these insects is in the Queensland Tropics, but “confirmed” and increasing sitings have been recorded more recently in WA.  We have dozens of “un-scientifically-confirmed” sightings in our back yard alone…
  • The Tiger Crane Fly male is slightly smaller than the female. (Reference)  This seems to be mainly due to her egg filled abdomen compared to his skinny one.
  • Other names: “daddy longlegs, mosquito hawks, mosquito eaters (or skeeter eaters), gallinippers, and jimmy spinners.”  (Reference)

Far greater information is available in the literature on the Crane family as a whole:

  • Australia has ~385 recorded Tipulidae species. (Reference)
  • “The adult female usually contains mature eggs as she emerges from her pupa…. Copulation takes a few minutes to hours and may be accomplished in flight…..The female immediately oviposits, usually in wet soil or mats of algae. Some lay eggs on the surface of a water body or in dry soils, and some reportedly simply drop them in flight. Most crane fly eggs are black in color. They often have a filament, which may help anchor the egg in wet or aquatic environments.” (Reference)

Caught in the act of laying Small Caught in the act!!!! No harm done though – refer to Slipper Gourd Blog

  • Some are considered agricultural pests due to the larvae feeding on roots, root hairs, crowns and sometimes leaves which can stunt or kill the plant.  Whilst a serious issue with some of the European crane flies, a funny story is quoted “In 1935, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London was among venues affected by leatherjackets. Several thousand were collected by ground staff and burned, because they caused bald patches on the wicket and the pitch took unaccustomed spin for much of the season.” (Reference)  Not unaccustomed spin, poor England – I wonder how they coped with Hoggie!  There is no evidence that they are an issue to agriculture in Australia.
  • “Larvae can be important in the soil ecosystem, because they process organic material and increase microbial activity. Larvae and adults are also valuable prey items for many animals, including insects, spiders, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals …. The larvae of some species are carnivorous on other small invertebrates, sometimes including mosquito larvae. Many adults, however, have such short lifespans, they do not eat at all.” (Reference)  Some sources mention adults consuming nectar, but this is not tied to any particular species.
  • Adults have a lifespan of 10 to 15 days.
  • Their legs are frequently called “deciduous”, a nice word for easily falling off!  There is no discussion I can find about these legs growing back. Hmmmm

As a brief aside – we owe most of our knowledge of the Crane Flies to the superhuman effort of one diligent man. Charles Paul Alexander of Massachusetts Agricultural College “described over 11,000 species and genera of flies, which translates to approximately a species description a day for his entire career.” (Reference)  Bet a question on that will never come up in a quiz night!

Tipula leatherjacket Emelt.jpg

https://i1.wp.com/media.eol.org/content/2013/11/11/18/91861_orig.jpg(Above) The Tipula sp. larva (Reference) – with a shape like that, I’m thinking they might double as ecosystem engineers also.  (Right) A mating pair (who can still fly!) (Reference).

Please excuse my little distraction from our hard core, investigative documentations you’re used to from me, but these guys had me wondering. I am pleased to now consider them friends.  Now we all know a little more about a potentially trivial issue, but will perhaps respect these gargantuan “mosquitoes” just that little bit more in future.

Just to finish off here is a little amateur video to complete the personality profile….

Until next time.

SH

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One thought on “Pick an Insect Day – The Crane Fly

  1. Pingback: Festivals, Fetes and Fun | The Soil Hugger's Journey

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