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This Week’s Creature Feature ... Crane Flies Bugging Waterfront Dwellers

While they don’t bite, mosquito-like giants do pester

First it was the invasion of the stinkbugs that had Bay Country residents bugged. Those pests have, for the most part, left our homes for the outdoors — unfortunately to eat their way through summer crops. But that’s another story.
    Now it’s another flying insect driving some of us nuts.
    “Has anyone at Bay Weekly investigated the flying insect infestation at the Windward Key Development?” asked Chesapeake Beach reader Angie Nowak. “There are so many that you cannot open the door or go outside. At first we thought they were mosquitoes but were told by Town Hall that they were crane flies and that they would be gone in a week or two. Well that time has come and passed and they are stronger in number than ever.”
    Intrigued, we asked Bay Weekly contributor Dick Wilson, who is a neighbor of Nowak’s.
    “This is the first year we’ve seen them,” Wilson says. “They are only on the windows facing the Bay, none on the street-side.”
    Which makes sense as the crane fly — which looks like a very large mosquito — prefers waterfront living.
    The several species of crane flies in our area belong to the tipula genus, and all mate on plants near water or in mid-air over the water.
    Females lay their eggs in water or in moist soil near the water. The larvae burrow into mud or soil to winter-over, snug as bugs in mud.
    When spring arrives, large numbers of crane flies hatch at the same time, releasing swarms of the flying insects, where they make the most of their short lives seeking mates.
    Crane flies are no pretty butterflies. Growing up to two and a half inches long, with a wingspan of three inches, they look more like a mosquito crossed with a daddy longlegs. Their super-thin legs are long, about twice as long as their bodies.
    They don’t bite. In fact, adult crane flies eat very little, and then only decaying plants, dead leaves, fungi or roots. Other than pestering us as they desperately search for mates, they don’t cause any harm.
    Crane flies are attracted to lights and are attracted to porch or patio light at night. Don’t worry about eradicating the flies. Most species live for about two weeks. They should be nothing more than a memory by Independence Day.
    Until next spring’s hatch.