The appearance is almost the same between the two; so most people confuse the crane fly with a big mosquito.
It’s important to know the most distinctive points of crane fly vs. mosquito to distinguish them clearly.
One is a fatal disease carrier and the other is not. In fact, crane flies can’t even bite!
I will point out all their differentiating points between the two in this in-depth article. Stay with me!
Mosquitoes Vs. Crane Flies: Prime Distinguishing Points
Yes, crane flies are bigger than mosquitoes but when it comes to dangers to humans, crane flies are totally harmless.
I think every household should have a clear understanding of the two. This is how they differ:
- Different Size
Figuring out the right size is the primary way to clearly identify them. This will clear some misconceptions as well. Yes, some people believe that crane flies are the enlarged version of mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are way smaller than crane flies. So, size is the easiest way to tell them apart.
The average size of mosquitoes is between ¼ – ½ inches whereas it’s between 1 – 1 ½ for the crane flies. It can be up to 3 inches for some of the crane flies’ species!
- Physical Differences
Well, you will have to look closely to differentiate their body shapes. Whereas mosquitoes have two pairs of wings, crane flies have only 1 pair of wings.
And the wingspan of the crane flies is double that of the mosquitoes!
The antennae can be a distinguishing feature between the two. Whereas mosquitoes have hairy antennae, crane flies’ antennae are not much hairy.
Crane flies can be gray, brown, red, black, or even yellow. But you won’t see such wide color variation for mosquitoes.
With long legs compared to mosquitoes, the abdomen of the crane flies is V-shaped. On the other hand, the abdomen of mosquitoes straight with no slender.
Also, a mosquito inserts its proboscis into the human body to suck blood but only the female crane flies have stinger-like ovipositor instead which they use to lay eggs on the ground.
You can also distinguish the male and female crane flies by observing their abdomens. The abdomen of female crane flies is larger than the male crane flies as they are on the stage of egg-laying virtually all the time.
- Life cycle Difference
The life of a mosquito starts as an egg. It becomes larvae when the egg hatches and the larvae need to feed constantly just like the larvae of crane flies.
Mosquito larvae mainly prefer algae, bacteria, and other microbes that they find in their watery environment.
Before such larvae can reach their pupal stages, they keep growing and molt 4 times. The pupa eventually turns into an adult and flies away.
The entire process takes 5 to 14 days from egg to adulthood.
The life cycle of crane flies is pretty much the same as the mosquito. They also lay eggs (in areas with lush vegetation) and when the eggs hatch, they become larvae (also known as leatherjackets).
These larvae look like a slug and their outer skin is very tough. They also live on algae, decay plants, microflora, etc.
Yes, they need to constantly eat and sometimes they become predatory and eat other aquatic insects and larvae.
During the winter, they spend their time underground. They come out as pupa in the middle to late spring.
You will see the crane flies’ infestation at their maximum in the late winter and early spring which is a little before the mosquito infestation.
- Different Style of Flying
They don’t even fly the same way. When it comes to flying, crane flies are the worst fliers if you compare them with mosquitoes.
The body shape of the crane flies has made them the worst fliers. If you notice carefully, you will see the crane flies actually wobble in the air.
Did you notice how quick and agile mosquitoes are when flying?
To live and flourish, mosquitoes prefer any areas with heat, moisture, and humidity. They basically prefer any wet areas with enough warmth.
They love weeds, tall grass, and bushes nearby residential and commercial buildings that will protect them from predators.
They build their nests in aluminum cans, buckets, various discarded items like old tires if there is still water.
Mosquitoes also During the breeding season, they prefer standing freshwater in their wetland habitat for the eggs and larvae development.
So, mainly they are widely available in tropical and subtropical regions like the U.S., Africa, South America, etc. But it’s also available worldwide to some extent.
Now, if you compare the habitat of mosquitoes with the crane flies, they are almost similar.
Crane flies are also worldwide available including the tropical and subtropical regions.
But they can also live-in subpolar regions like the article circle where you won’t see any mosquitoes.
Crane flies are very fond of bright light at night. So, you can see them around the streetlights where night-life is normal like Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, etc.
- Danger To Human
Whereas mosquitoes transmit deadly diseases like Malaria, encephalitis, and the West Nile virus, crane flies don’t carry any of such viruses.
A single bite from such a deadly mosquito can make humans seriously ill. Even if they don’t any of such diseases, their bites are very itchy!
But the crane flies don’t even sting humans as the mosquitoes do. It’s just another flying bug.
The maximum damages any crane fly can do is by consuming vegetation and roots while they are growing. Even the adult crane flies don’t even eat anything. Their job is just to mate and die!
As they don’t hurt humans and no concern for the humans unlike the killer mosquitoes, your whole family members including the kids should only worry about the mosquitoes.
Yes, if left unchecked, an infestation of crane flies can be damaging for your crops and lawn.
I am not saying the crane flies don’t look intimidating as well; but in reality, adult crane flies are completely harmless. In fact, their larvae help humans in some ways.
Let me explain how…
The larvae of crane flies help to break down the decaying plant and other dead, and thus helps the environment by a lot improving the soil quality.
So, it helps your garden and lawn by being a vital part of the food chain.
- Different Feeding Patterns
As you already know, crane flies don’t live on human blood. They just need to eat on the larvae stage.
But there is a different feeding pattern for the mosquitoes in their lifecycle.
The larvae of mosquitoes live in water and eat only algae and the adult mosquitoes eat plant nectar to live on. It’s the female mosquitoes that bite you!
As the female mosquitoes need both lipids and protein to lay eggs, they have to bite to live on blood from humans and other animals.
That’s how such deadly diseases spread too.
You will notice that a lot of people call crane flies the “mosquito eaters”. I don’t know why? They don’t eat mosquitoes. They don’t help in any way controlling the mosquitoes’ population.
In fact, their adult male kinds don’t eat at all!
- Infestation Patterns
Their infestation patterns differ vastly as well. They both infest outdoor spaces but only the mosquitoes can make your life hell invading your home. Mosquitoes can even hide in your room and bite whenever they are hungry.
If you have potted plants or indoor drains where there is always some water, mosquitoes will take up your home pretty soon.
Yes, crane flies can also get inside accidentally but they won’t stay indoors long.
When they get inside your home, they will keep bouncing against the ceiling or wall until they escape outside or die.
And yes, their lifespan is much shorter than the mosquitoes as well.
Keeping Crane Flies & Mosquitoes Away From Home
Crane flies may not be as dangerous and damaging as mosquitoes, but you do not want either of them inside or nearby your house. So, this is what I do to keep both of them away:
- Step 1: Identification
Before you can take any action, you must identify what you are dealing with. Is it mosquitoes or crane flies?
Since you are almost at the end of reading this article, I guess you know how to identify them precisely, right?
- Step 2: Inspection
Once you have successfully identified the right bugs, inspect your entire home or yards to find exactly where they are coming from.
Often, they will be in concentrated forms. Identifying those concentrations will help you to understand they are there.
As you have already known such bugs prefer wet spots, so identifying them will tell you that you have a poor drainage system in the yard or in your home.
Now you can take steps to improve the draining capabilities. It will also show you what you have done wrong with your yard or home and you can fix those mistakes ASAP.
You can still apply the same solution all over your house or yard but locating the concentrated spots will make your job easier.
- Step 3: Try The Natural Solution
Call me old-timer, but I always follow and encourage people to try the natural ways to get rid of crane flies first. And you should try this solution if the situation is not already on a serious level.
This is what you should do…
Crane flies don’t eat the mosquitoes but there are some animals that love to eat crane flies and their larvae. Birds are one of them!
Invite the birds in your yard and let them eat all of them! It will cut the number of bugs in your yard significantly and your job will become less painful.
To make this method effective, you should encourage birds by putting out some bird feeders into your yard. This will encourage them to stay closer to your yard and eat the crane flies.
They eat the larvae too!
Apart from the bird feeders, you can build them safe places to reside as well.
Building bird nests will encourage birds to keep coming into your yard again and again. And they will eat all those pesky insects!
These birds love to eat the nutrients-enriched larvae and insects for themselves and for their babies. So, keeping birds around your yard is a win-win situation for everyone!
- Step 4: Apply Insecticides
Of course, you need to apply insecticides to completely get rid of mosquitoes and crane flies. But it’s hard to achieve the desired result.
Crane flies have the toughest skin and they don’t come out during the day. So, they are hard to kill.
So, most of the insecticides are not effective to kill crane flies. You need to find the strongest pesticides to kill them that can penetrate the tough skin of leatherjackets.
While applying such insecticides, apply more on the wet or damp spots.
- Step 5: Prevent
Keeping your home or yard healthy is the best way to prevent them. They won’t find any wet or damp spots to lay eggs. So, they won’t bother invading your home.
Ensure a better drainage system so that they don’t find any moist spots to live and lay eggs. Aerate your lawn soil whenever necessary.
Also, keep your lawn grass trimmed always. This will effectively prevent the leatherjackets.
A healthy lawn does not need much watering. So, there will be less moist soil for a long time. Hence, they won’t find it suitable to lay eggs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long do crane flies last?
Answer: Their life span ranges from 10 to 15 days. Within this timespan, they lay eggs, hatch, the larvae grow to an adult, and the adult crane flies die after mating.
Do crane flies keep mosquitoes away?
Answer: No. They neither feed on mosquitoes nor keeps them away. I know many people call them “mosquito hawks” or “mosquito killers”, but these are all just some misconceptions.
Are crane flies good?
Answer: Not when your home is infested with them! But the adult crane flies are totally harmless and they contribute to the ecosystem because the larvae feed on the decaying organic matter and help with the decomposition process.
Are phantom crane flies dangerous?
Answer: No. I know they are referred to as “daddy long legs” or other fancy names but these are just misconceptions. In fact, crane flies are the most misunderstood flying insects on earth!
What are crane flies attracted to?
Answer: Moist areas like the irrigated lawns. They feed on flower nectar but they don’t eat or kill mosquitoes. But dragonflies eat mosquitoes!
Do crane flies bite?
Answer: No. I admit they look weird and for some—even scary but they never bite.
After reading all the important characteristics of crane fly vs. mosquito, can you identify them accurately from now on? You should!
If you need to be afraid of something between the two, be afraid of the mosquitoes. They can make your life miserable if proper preventive measures are not taken.
Let me know your thoughts about mosquitoes and crane flies in the comment box.