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Who's the Daddy?

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Tiger Cranefly

It's that time of year when you can't open your doors or windows after dark without having your home invaded by hordes of aim-straight-for-your-face Crane Flies.  The popular name for these insects is "Daddy Long-legs" on account of the extremely gangly legs.  You can also spot them during the daytime bobbing up and down in short grass.  But what's all that bobbing for?

The ones doing the bobbing are the female Crane Flies.  Does that make them 'Mummy Long-legs'?  Anyway the reason they fly so low to the ground is to deposit their eggs.  The bobbing motion gives them just enough power to stab a hole in the soil with their pointed ovipositor and bury their eggs.


The young which hatch from those eggs feed on the roots of grasses.  They're known as leatherjackets on account of their tough, leathery skin.

Leatherjacket spiracles

If you find one it can be quite easy to confuse the head end from the tail end.  The tail end has two circular indentations which look like eyes.  In truth a pair of eyes would be practically useless to Crane Fly larvae since they live in darkness underground.  The two dents are breathing holes, which in insects are called 'spiracles'.

The name 'Daddy Long-legs' can lead to confusion as there is a species of spider known as daddy long-legs, and also harvestmen are often referred to as daddy long legs.

Numbers of Craneflies peak in September and there is frequently an abundance of them after a wet summer.  Wet soil is probably easier for larvae to move through as they feed.


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