Crane Fly Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Crane Flies

Crane flies, mosquito hawks, or mosquito wasps – whatever you choose to call them – they are harmless once they reach adulthood. It is during their larvae stage at which they are most detrimental. They belong to the family of flies. Crane fly has more than 15,000 species around the world. It does not matter if you are living in a place that is cold or hot, these pests thrive almost anywhere.

These long-legged and clumsy insects are gentle and look very much like a mosquito, especially the European crane fly. The latter has a wingspan that reaches a maximum of 2.5 inches, which makes them larger than the traditional mosquito. Their color varies, but they are usually gray, brown, or yellow. They have a long antenna, with about 39 segments in each. During their larval stage, on the other hand, the appearance is like worms. When they are in the form of eggs, meanwhile, they are round and long, found in clusters.

Crane Fly’s Habitat

One thing that makes crane flies difficult to manage is because they survive almost anywhere. They thrive in a variety of environments, such as fresh and brackish water, especially the eggs. They can also survive in terrestrial grounds or in decaying vegetation. They prefer places that are near water sources and they are also common in moist soil.

The crane fly starts spreading damage in spring, sometime in the middle of May. At this point, they are also known as leatherjackets, which is in reference to their tough coating.  In July to August, they enter soil for their pupation and at this stage, they do not cause an infestation in plants. By the last week of August, they transform into adult crane flies, which are not as destructive as larvae and only has a minimal lifespan.

Crane Fly on the Thin Leaves

Crane Fly Survives Almost Anywhere

Identifying Crane Fly’s Damage

Plants Affected

The colloquial name of crane fly is mosquito eater. With this, a lot of people assume that they feast on mosquitos. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, they do not feed on mosquitos and other insects. While they are common in the wild, they can also be a problem in most home gardens, especially in species of turf grass. Because they love moist environments, they are common in turfs with generous irrigation. During their larval stage, they can also survive in cereal crops and potato tubers.


Watch out for the following symptoms, which will be indicative of the possible presence of crane fly:

  • One of the most common symptoms is the thinning or discoloration of the lawn. You will realize that its color is not consistent in all portions. The part where crane flies feed will appear yellowish or bald.
  • There will also be large holes on the surface of the lawns. They are not caused by the crane flies. Rather, they are dug by insects that are searching for the larva of crane flies to feed on. This is actually a good thing as the insects act as natural predators, but the problem is that it makes the lawn unattractive.
  • The edges of leaves will also appear crooked. This is because the crane flies chew them. This leads to the deterrence of growth because of the lack of nutrition needed by the plant to survive.

Results of Infestation

The most serious damage from crane fly is the balding of the lawn since they attack turf grass. They will start appearing dry and yellowish. It will thin and die. It is common not only in the garden, but also on golf courses and sports fields. Because of the extent of the damage, you might find the need to completely replace the entire field.

Crane Fly Infestation

The Lawn Damaged by Crane Flies

How to Get Rid of Crane Fly

Natural and Organic Solutions

Controlling crane fly does not require the need to use toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the environment or humans. Below are some solutions that can prove to be effective without causing any harm:

  • Lawn aeration is one of the most important measures to eliminate crane flies. It is a process of perforation, allowing the soil to absorb water, air, and other nutrients that will make it healthy. It prevents soil compaction the presence of pests.
  • Another solution that works is dethatching, which is one of the basics when it comes to lawn care and maintenance. It is the mechanical thatch removal or the layer of the turf grass that is dead. This makes it more attractive and will prevent the problems from spreading. Also, it is important to note that decaying vegetation is a breeding ground for crane flies, which makes it important to get rid of it.
  • The presence of beneficial nematodes will also help in the control of crane fly. In fact, it reduces the presence of their larvae by as much as 50%. They kill not only crane flies, but also more than 200 other species of common pests and insects.
  • Aside from nematodes, there is also a wide array of natural predators that you can have in the garden, such as beneficial birds and insects. To do this, you can add plants that attract the latter. They will feed on the eggs and larva, making it a lot easier to get rid of them. However, this is not a solution that many prefer because they can cause unattractive patches and can damage the turf, especially if it is a golf course.
  • Another simple solution is to cover the ground with black polythene. Leave it for overnight. This will attract the crane flies. Remove the next morning, but be sure to dispose it the right way so that the pests will not end up going back to the ground.
  • If you want to use insecticides, be sure that they contain natural ingredients so that you do not need to worry about toxicity. An insecticidal soap will be effective. Once it reaches the insect, they will become weak. This results in dehydration and death.

Chemical Solutions

This is a common solution for commercial purposes, such as in golf courses. It may work, but professional help is necessary, especially because of the toxic ingredients in the chemicals. One active ingredient is chlorpyrifos, which is effective in the control of soil-borne insects. For preventive measure, on the other hand, look for insecticides that contain imidacloprid.

How to Prevent Crane Fly

Before the problem of crane fly infestation becomes worse, act immediately and take advantage of the various control measures. With this, one thing that you can do is to have a regular inspection of the lawns. If there is any visible damage, this is an indication that you should act the soonest and take advantage of the most effective methods to get rid of this pest. Soil compaction will also help. The more compact the soil is, the lesser will be the space available for the crane flies to move and cause damage.

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