Have you seen many of these leggy insects hovering around your windows and doors lately? It’s none other than the humble, light-loving crane fly, also known as the mosquito eater. Have you ever seen a mosquito eater actually eat a mosquito? No? Well, that’s because that particular nickname is deceptive.
Despite their colloquial moniker, crane flies do not prey on mosquitoes. And, contrary to popular misconception, they do not bite humans. In fact, adult crane flies have a very limited diet, feeding on nectar, or not feeding at all. Once they become adults, most crane fly species exist only to mate and die. Their lifespan is short, ranging from only 2 to 15 days, depending on environmental factors.
Crane fly eggs hatch into larvae, known as “leatherjackets”, “leatherbacks”, “leatherback bugs” or “leatherjacket slugs.” They are occasionally considered a mild turf pest because they consume grass roots as they mature. For the most part, the incubating larvae cause few problems, unless they infest arable land, or choose a sports field as their hatching site. In 1935, several thousand leatherjackets had to be meticulously picked out by staff at Lord’s cricket ground in London. The pest caused bald patches on the pitch, which gave the cricket balls an unusual spin for much of the that year’s season.
Mosquito eaters don’t eat mosquitos, but they are a valuable food source for other insects, birds, and amphibians. Fish also find mosquito eaters irresistible to eat, making them popular with anglers — something to remember next time you go for one of the gangly insects with a rolled up magazine!