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Cranefly

Insect

Tipula paludosa

This slender, long-legged fly is grey-brown with dark brown leading edges to its wings. It looks like a giant mosquito, but is harmless. It is also known as a daddy longlegs.

The shape of the abdomen distinguishes the sexes: the male’s is square-ended, whereas the female’s is pointed with an ovipositor (egg laying structure). There are about 300 species in the British Isles – this is the commonest.

Craneflies are usually nocturnal and are often attracted to lights. Unfortunately their legs are only weakly attached to their bodies and often break off. The dull brown larvae, known as leatherjackets, are pests. They feed on plant roots, especially grasses, and can seriously damage crops.

What does it eat?

Adults rarely feed. Larvae live in the soil and eat roots. They also emerge at night to chew the bases of plant stems.

When will I see it?

Generally in the evening, at anytime of the year, but it is most common in the autumn.

Where will I see it?

Across the garden. It is often attracted to lights in the evening. Also in parks and grassland.

Vital statistics

Length: about 25 mm

Calendar

Seen in JanuarySeen in FebruarySeen in MarchSeen in AprilSeen in MaySeen in JuneSeen in JulySeen in AugustSeen in SeptemberSeen in OctoberSeen in NovemberSeen in December

Key to calendar