Are Monster Mosquitoes A Threat?

September 1, 2013

Nature Notes by Bill Dunson


Crane fly (Tipulid)

Crane fly (Tipulid)

I found this interesting and somewhat menacing insect on my back porch recently where it must have been attracted by the lights. It was scary but after I took a closer look and I realized that it was not a huge mutant mosquito bent on sucking my blood, but only a harmless crane fly (Tipulid).

Flies have three pairs of legs and one pair of wings, The second pair of wings is replaced by a set of peculiar organs termed halteres. They are a tiny ball at the end of a filament which beats in opposition to the wings and apparently provides balance or stabilizing control when in flight. When I saw these organs I realized that this was not a wasp. Of course mosquitoes are also in the fly group (Diptera) but they are much smaller and shaped differently.

Crane flies have a maggot-like larva which may live in aquatic habitats or soil and generally feed on fungi, grass roots (European species can be pests of turf grasses), decaying organic matter, or some are predatory. The adults may feed on nectar but generally do not feed at all and die soon after mating. Such a life cycle is hard for us to comprehend in which almost all of the life is spent as a larva or pupa and very little as an adult They are found around the world and may be encountered almost anywhere.

So a little bit of knowledge of entomology can relieve any apprehension you may have on encountering this interesting if somewhat scary looking giant fly. Isn’t it wonderful that the world is filled with such strange creatures that exist completely beyond our own knowledge and control?

Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL, and Galax, VA

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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