There is a rather creepy flying insect that appears in midsummer, bobbing and weaving like a drunken boxer and frightening entomophobes with its long spidery limbs and impressive wingspan. The Cranefly must have earned this common name from its elongated, somewhat ungainly looks, resembling either the long-legged bird or perhaps Ichabod Crane.
A member of the family Tipulidae, there are at least 4,256 species of crane flies which are also known as mosquito hawk, mosquito wolf, mosquito eater (or skeeter eater), gallinipper and gollywhopper. Whatever you call them, they seem like an insect that could easily become entangled in your hair and then, lacking the strength to free themselves, would flop around alarmingly creating panic (well, I would probably panic, even though I know that they neither bite nor sting).
Certainly the adult form of this insect is harmless; most crane fly species exist as adults only to mate and die, but the larvae can do some serious damage to your lawn if there are enough of them. And this year, there has been a population explosion of craneflies that makes me worry about what may happen to my lawn next spring when the leatherjackets get hungry.
I don’t know why there are so many craneflies. It could be a natural cyclic phenomenon, many insects follow a predictable cycle of population boom and bust, or perhaps our cool wet spring and early summer favoured the survival of more larvae to adulthood, or maybe it was both!
Whatever the case, I’m sure going to be watching my lawn for the telltale brown patches next spring and summer. Of course I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have a serious problem, I don’t know of a non-chemical method of dealing with leatherjackets and won’t use the recommended pesticides because I’m uncomfortable with their toxicity.
I might need to find another way to dispatch the ugly little buggers or resign myself to reseeding my lawn after they’ve killed it! Of course less lawn and more garden is also an option. In the meantime I will be squashing as many craneflies as I can before they can lay their eggs in my lawn.