What Is a Mosquito Eater? The Crane Fly Chronicle

The first time you saw insects that resembled mosquitoes (but larger and with longer legs) at home or in the garden, it probably didn’t occur to you that they aren’t the most dangerous types of mosquitoes. In fact, they aren’t even mosquitos – they’re called mosquito eaters.

So what is a mosquito eater, exactly?

These creatures are known as crane flies, and they feast on mosquito larvae. Here are the basics:

  • Crane flies look like mosquitoes, but they are not in the same family.
  • They eat mosquito larvae, not adult mosquitoes.
  • They’re larger than mosquitoes, but they can’t physically kill mosquitoes.
  • Crane flies are categorized as European and common.

In this article, I’ll take a close look at crane flies.

What Is a Mosquito Eater, Exactly?

crane fly mosquito eater
Crane Fly Photo

The crane fly has a few common nicknames names: the mosquito hawk and the mosquito eater. They look exactly like large mosquitoes. Although they may appear large and dangerous when fully mature, they are harmless once they reach full size.

In contrast to mayflies, crane flies live only a couple of days after maturity. And despite their name, they do not feed on mosquitoes or really aid in the control of their populations. They only feed on the eggs of mosquitoes.

The crane fly has a few common nicknames names: the mosquito hawk and the mosquito eater. They look exactly like large mosquitoes.

But if you’re envisioning harnessing an army of mosquito hawks to wage a righteous war against your evil vampiric mosquito population, well… that’s not going to work.

mosquito hawk battling a mosqutio

Unfortunately, you can’t breed an army of mosquito hawks to solve your mosquito problem. And while mosquito hawks don’t bite, they can be a pest in their own right.

Crane fly larvae can wreak havoc on lawns, so you should identify these pests to prevent their spread.

What Do Mosquito Hawks Look Like?

Despite their size and absence of harmful effects on lawns, crane flies, which cannot bite or sting, have long legs similar to mosquitoes.

Since crane flies cause damage at the larval stage, identifying the larvae in your yard is crucial:

  • They look like short, stout worms when they are larvae. At later stages of development, they can also resemble caterpillars without legs.
  • Due to their thick gray skin, they are referred to as “leather jackets.”
  • Their length can reach two inches.
  • You can find them feeding on your turf’s roots and crown. During the fall, larvae hatch, feed upon the turf, and overwinter in the ground. Their feeding season will resume in the spring as soon as the weather warms.

Are Mosquito Eaters Capable of Biting Humans?

Humans are not bitten or stung by crane flies. The primary food source of mosquito hawks is nectar, and most adults do not feed. Neither humans nor pets are at risk from these creatures, as opposed to regular mosquitoes that consume blood and can transmit diseases.

The primary food source of mosquito hawks is nectar.

Mosquito Eater Infestation: What Can I Do?

  • Eliminating mosquito larvae is the best way to treat mosquito eaters. Adult crane flies live for a short time and are not harmful to humans. However, the larvae of these insects live much longer and can damage garden plants because of their large appetites.
  • Maintain a healthy lawn with a regular lawn mowing schedule to avoid crane flies infesting it. 
  • To avoid crane fly eggs being laid in your yard, make sure your yard is properly drained.
  • A crane fly larvae pesticide is best used in the spring to eradicate larvae and avoid their repopulation in the hotter months.

The Life Cycle of the Mosquito Eater

1. Eggs of Crane Flies

A crane fly’s adult life cycle begins in the summer when they emerge and mate. The eggs are laid within 24 hours, which are laid on turfgrass, mossy ground, and in lakes and creeks.

2. Larvae

The crane flies’ eggs will hatch after 6 to 14 days into a crane fly larva, which is also known as a leather jacket. They appear to resemble worms, ranging in length from 2 to 3 inches, and have tapered ends.

The larval skin of crane flies is covered with tiny hairs that provide strength and protection. 

Vegetation, stems, roots, and decaying wood, are some of their food sources. In the winter, crane fly larvae will spend time underground and not feed. 

3. Crane Fly Pupae

The pupation process occurs between the middle of spring and the end of summer, just beneath the soil’s surface.

4. Crane Fly Adults

This cycle will be restarted in the summer by adult crane flies. The lifespan of these insects is short. They only live long enough to reproduce eggs and mate.

Facts About Mosquito Eaters

  • From the tropics to cold high-latitude environments, crane flies belong to the family Tipulidae.
  • This fly’s build could be more proportionate so that it could be better at flying.
  • Because they aren’t hazardous to people or agriculture, they’re not included in pest control.
  • Even though there are more than 15,000 species of crane flies described worldwide, none of them are predatory as adults.

Final Thoughts

Those unfamiliar with crane flies, also known as mosquito eaters or mosquito hawks, may be surprised to learn that they don’t eat mosquitoes. Plants and nectar are the main food sources for crane flies. If you see mosquito eaters in your house or yard, check your lawn for infestation.

Seek professional help if you find a large infestation before they ruin your lawn.