In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / predator / stocks nest with
female of Crossocerus vagabundus stocks nest with Tipulidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Erycilla ferruginea is endoparasitoid of larva of Tipulidae

Animal / pathogen
pure white to grey or rarely green, shaggy rhizoids of Erynia conica infects adult of Tipulidae

Animal / predator / stocks nest with
female of Rhopalum coarctatum stocks nest with Tipulidae

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Siphona geniculata is endoparasitoid of larva of Tipulidae

Animal / pathogen
Steinernema carpocapsae infects larva of Tipulidae


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Known predators

Tipulidae (tipulids (unspec.)) is prey of:
Partnuniella thermalis
Thermacarus nevadensis
Tachytrechus angustipennis

Based on studies in:
USA (Temporary pool)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • N. C. Collins, R. Mitchell and R. G. Wiegert, 1976. Functional analysis of a thermal spring ecosystem, with an evaluation of the role of consumers. Ecology 57:1221-1232, from p. 1222.
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Known prey organisms

Tipulidae (tipulids (unspec.)) preys on:
Endocladia muricata
Tegula funebralis
Littorina planaxis
Littorina scutulata
Acmaea digitalis
Acmaea pelta
Acmaea scabra
Cyanoplax dientens
Dynamenella glabra
Syllis vittata
Syllis spenceri
coarse particulate organic matter

Based on studies in:
USA: California, Monterey Bay (Littoral, Rocky shore)
USA (Temporary pool)
England: River Medway (River)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • P. W. Glynn, Community composition, structure, and interrelationships in the marine intertidal Endocladia Muricata - Balanus glandula association in Monterey Bay, California, Beaufortia 12(148):1-198, from p. 133 (1965).
  • N. C. Collins, R. Mitchell and R. G. Wiegert, 1976. Functional analysis of a thermal spring ecosystem, with an evaluation of the role of consumers. Ecology 57:1221-1232, from p. 1222.
  • A. G. Hildrew, C. R. Townsend and A. Hasham, 1985. The predatory Chironomidae of an iron-rich stream: feeding ecology and food web structure. Ecol. Entomol. 10:403-413, from p. 412.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 6022
Specimens with Sequences: 5292
Specimens with Barcodes: 4911
Species: 453
Species With Barcodes: 390
Public Records: 165
Public Species: 43
Public BINs: 59
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Barcode data

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Crane fly

For other arthropods called "daddy longlegs", see Daddy longlegs.

The crane fly is a member of the family of insects in the order Diptera, true flies in the superfamily Tipuloidea. Cylindrotominae, Limoniinae, and Pediciinae have been ranked as subfamilies of Tipulidae by most authors,[1] though occasionally elevated to family rank. In the most recent classifications, only Pediciidae is now ranked as a separate family, due to considerations of paraphyly.[2]

Crane flies are found worldwide, though individual species usually have limited ranges. They are most diverse in the tropics, and are also common in northern latitudes and high elevations.[3]

The Tipulidae sensu lato is one of the largest groups of flies, including over 15,000 species and subspecies in 525 genera and subgenera.[4] Most crane flies were described by the entomologist Charles Paul Alexander, a fly specialist, in over 1000 research publications.[5]


The head of a Tipula sp.


The adult crane fly, resembling an oversized mosquito, has a slender body and stilt-like legs that are deciduous, easily coming off the body. The wingspan is generally about 1.0 to 6.5 cm. The antennae have up to 39 segments.[6] It is also characterized by a V-shaped suture on the back of the thorax and by its wing venation.[3] The rostrum is long; in some species it is as long as the head and thorax together.[4]


For terms see Morphology of Diptera.

Tipulidae are large to medium-sized flies (7 mm-35 mm) with elongated legs, wings, and abdomen. Their colour is yellow, brown or grey. Ocelli are absent. The rostrum (a snout) is short to very short with a beak-like point called the nasus (rarely absent). The apical segment of the maxillary palpi is flagelliform and much longer than the subapical segment. The antennae have 13 segments, (exceptionally 14 -19). These are whorled, serrate, or ctenidial. There is a distinct V-shaped suture between the between the mesonotal prescutum and scutum (near the level of the wing bases). The wings are monochromatic, longitudinally striped or marbled. In females the wings are sometimes rudimentary. The sub-costal vein (Sc) joins through Sc2 with the radial vein, Sc1 is at most a short stump. There are four, rarely (when R2is reduced) three branches of the radial vein merging into the alar margin. The discoidal wing cell is usually present. The wing has 2 anal veins. Sternite 9 of the male genitalia has, with few exceptions, two pairs of appendages. Sometimes appendages are also present on sternite 8. The female ovipositor has sclerotized valves and the cerci have a smooth or dentate lower margin. The valves are sometimes modified into thick bristles or short teeth.

The larva is elongated, usually cylindrical.The posterior two-thirds of the head capsule is enclosed or retracted within the prothoracic segment. The larva is metapneustic (with only one pair of spiracles, these on the anal segment of the abdomen), but often with vestigial lateral spiracles (rarely apneustic). The head capsule is sclerotized anteriorly and deeply incised ventrally and often dorsolaterally. The mandibles are opposed and move in the horizontal or oblique plane. The abdominal segments have transverse creeping welts. The terminal segments of the abdomen are glabrous, often partially sclerotized and bearing posterior spiracles. The spiracular disc is usually surrounded by lobe-like projections and anal papillae or lobes.


A pair of crane flies (Tipulidae) mating

The adult female usually contains mature eggs as she emerges from her pupa, and often mates immediately if a male is available. Males also search for females by walking or flying. Copulation takes a few minutes to hours and may be accomplished in flight. Adults have a lifespan of 10 to 15 days.[7] The female immediately oviposits, usually in wet soil or mats of algae. Some lay eggs on the surface of a water body or in dry soils, and some reportedly simply drop them in flight. Most crane fly eggs are black in color. They often have a filament, which may help anchor the egg in wet or aquatic environments.[5]

Crane fly larvae (leatherjackets) have been observed in many habitat types on dry land and in water,[5] including marine, brackish, and fresh water.[4] They are cylindrical in shape, but taper toward the front end, and the head capsule is often retracted into the thorax. The abdomen may be smooth, lined with hairs, or studded with projections or welt-like spots. Projections may occur around the spiracles.[4] Larvae may eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter, including wood. Some are predatory.[5][8]


The thorax of a crane fly

Larval habitats include all kinds of freshwater, semiaquatic environments. Some Tipulinae including Dolichopeza Curtis are found in moist to wet cushions of mosses or liverworts. Ctenophora Meigen species are found in decaying wood or sodden logs. Nephrotoma Meigen and Tipula Linnaeus larvae are found in dry soils of pasturelands, lawns, and steppe. Tipulidae larvae are also found in rich organic earth and mud, in wet spots in woods where the humus is saturated, in leaf litter or mud, decaying plant materials, or fruits in various stages of putrefaction.

Larvae can be important in the soil ecosystem, because they process organic material and increase microbial activity.[5] Larvae and adults are also valuable prey items for many animals, including insects, spiders, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals.[4]

The larvae of some species are carnivorous on other small invertebrates, sometimes including mosquito larvae. Many adults, however, have such short lifespans, they do not eat at all.[9]

Pest status[edit]

The common European crane fly, Tipula paludosa, and the marsh crane fly, T. oleracea, are agricultural pests in Europe. Crane fly larvae of economic importance live in the top layers of soil where they feed on the roots, root hairs, crown, and, sometimes the leaves of crops, stunting their growth or killing the plants. They are pests on a variety of commodities. Since the late 1900s, T. paludosa and T. oleracea have become invasive in the US.[10][11][12] The larvae have been observed on many crops, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, pasture, lawn grasses, and ornamental plants.

In 1935, Lord's Cricket Ground in London was among venues affected by leatherjackets. Several thousand were collected by ground staff and burned, because they caused bald patches on the wicket and the pitch took unaccustomed spin for much of the season.[13]


Global diversity of Tipulidae

Species lists[edit]



The Tipulidae sensu lato are a very old group of Diptera close to Mecoptera [14][15] They have a number of derived characters and are perhaps (with the Trichoceridae) the sister group of all other Diptera. The Pediciidae and Tipulidae are sister groups (the "limoniids" are a paraphyletic clade)[2] and the Cylindrotominae appear to be a relict group that was much better represented in the Tertiary.[16] Tipulidae probably evolved from ancestors in the Upper Jurassic, the Architipulidae.

Common names[edit]

Numerous other common names have been applied to the crane fly. Many of the names are more or less regional in the U.S., including mosquito hawk, mosquito eater, gallinipper, and gollywhopper.[17] They are also known as daddy-long-legs around the world,[6] not to be confused with daddy-long-legs that refers to arachnids of the order Opiliones or the family Pholcidae. The larvae of crane flies are known commonly as leatherjackets.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexander C.P., Byers G.W. (1981) Tipulidae. in: McAlpine J.F. et al. (Ed.), Manual of Nearctic Diptera. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, pp. 153–1902 ISBN 0660107317 pdf download manual
  2. ^ a b Petersen, M.J.; Bertone, M.A.; Wiegmann, B.M.; Courtney, G.W. 2010: Phylogenetic synthesis of morphological and molecular data reveals new insights into the higher-level classification of Tipuloidea (Diptera). Systematic entomology, 35: 526-545. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3113.2010.00524.x
  3. ^ a b Pritchard, G. (1983). Biology of Tipulidae. Annual Review of Entomology 28(1), 1-22.
  4. ^ a b c d e de Jong, H., et al. (2008). Global diversity of craneflies (Insecta, Diptera: Tipulidea or Tipulidae sensu lato) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595(1), 457-67.
  5. ^ a b c d e Oosterbroek, P. Superfamily Tipuloidea, Family Tipulidae. Chapter 2 In: Evenhuis, N. L. (Ed.) Catalog of the Diptera of the Australasian and Oceanian Regions, Issue 86 of Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication. Apollo Press. 1989.
  6. ^ a b c Watson, L. and M. J. Dallwitz. 2003 onwards. Tipulidae. British Insects: The Families of Diptera. Version: 1 January 2012.
  7. ^ Carnegie Museum of Natural History | The Crane Flies of Pennsylvania
  8. ^ G Pritchard , 1983 Biology of Tipulidae Annual Review of Entomology Vol. 28: 1-22 pdf
  9. ^ Newton. B. Crane Flies. Kentucky Insects. Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.
  10. ^ Rao, Sujaya; Listona, Aaron; Cramptonb, Lora; Takeyasu, Joyce (2006). "Identification of Larvae of Exotic Tipula paludosa (Diptera: Tipulidae) and T. oleracea in North America Using Mitochondrial cytB Sequences". Annals of the Entomological Society of America 99 (1): 33–40. doi:10.1603/0013-8746(2006)099[0033:IOLOET]2.0.CO;2. 
  11. ^ Blackshaw R. P, Coll C. Economically important leatherjackets of grassland and cereals: biology, impact and control. Integr. Pest. Manag. Rev. 1999, 4:143-160.Blackshaw_and_Coll,_1999.pdf pdf
  12. ^ Jackson D. M, Campbell R. L. Biology of the European crane fly, Meigen, in western Washington (Tipulidae: Diptera). Washington State University Technical Bull. No. 81. 1975.
  13. ^ A. Ward. Cricket's Strangest Matches (1998 ed.). Robson Books, London. p. 111. 
  14. ^ Rohdendorf, B . 1974. The Historical Development of Diptera. Edmonton:Univ. Alberta.
  15. ^ Savchenko, E. N. 1966. Phylogeny and systematics of the Tipulidae. Fauna Ukraini14:63-88 (In Russian)
  16. ^ Hennig, W. 1950. Die Larvenformen der Dipteren, Arb. 2. Berlin: Akad. Verlag.
  17. ^ Dictionary of American Regional English. 
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