Crane Fly vs Mosquito: How To Tell The Difference

Mosquitos and Crane Flies are one of the most mixed up animals types on this green Earth; and by that, I mean we confuse them all of the time.

But why; why do we continue to misconstrue the crane fly and the mosquito? Is it their physical features? Their environment and eating habits? Or maybe it’s because of their love for humans…

I’ll inform you that you’re not wrong for getting them mixed up; and there’s more than one reason why such a simple mistake gets made everyday.

Allow me to explain the difference between a crane fly and mosquito.

Habitat

Mosquito

Mosquitos love to be in areas that are filled with heat, moisture, humidity, and various wet areas within the ecological structure

They enjoy being in areas that’ll protect them from predators such as tall grass, weeds, and bushes near occupied locations like commercial buildings, or your home.

Their wetland habitat tends to have still, standing freshwater, which they use as a breeding surface for their eggs, and development of their larvae. This stillwater can literally be anywhere where a mosquito can fit such as an old tire, aluminum cans, buckets or other discarded entities.

Worldy, mosquitos are known and inhabit the entire planet. 

They thrive in areas that are hot with lots of water such as tropical and subtropical regions such as the United States of America, Central and South America, Africa and India, 

Islands such as Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Madagascar are also sufficient areas for a mosquito.

Crane Fly

The habitat of the crane fly is similar to that of the mosquito. They are worldwide, and can be found in subtropical and tropical areas. 

The major difference between the ecosystem of the crane fly and the mosquito is that crane flies also do pretty well in subpolar regions such as areas in the Arctic circle, Antarctica, Alaska and northern Canada.

On the western side of the world, they can survive in fields of grass; however, they much rather prefer to be near water or buried in soil that’s moist for its organic nutrients, unlike mosquitos. 

Crane flies are also often found around streetlights and other lights that shine brightly at night. For that reason, busy night-life cities such as Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles are adequately populated with these insects.

Physical Attributes

Mosquito

The typical mosquito that we experience throughout a week is usually just a black dot with wings. But when we take a closer look at one, the features stand out like a sore thumb.

Mosquitos have two pairs of wings. These wings can either be narrow or broad depending on the species. The first pair is for flight, and the second pair of wings are much shorter structures called “halteres”; and their wingspan measure only about 0.94 inches.

Their bodies are much smaller and thinner than a crane fly, and they have six very long legs. Mosquitos also have scales going along the veins of their wings, unlike crane flies. 

In addition, they have a long needle-like, sharp mouth with a sucking apparatus attached to it called the “proboscis”. This thin, elongated mouth part is what mosquitos use to unexpectedly siphon blood from your body.

They also have hairy antennae, which makes their highly distinguishable.

Crane Fly

Crane flies body and wings is usually much larger than a mosquito; they only have one pair of wings, and its wingspan can reach up to 2 ½  inches across; this makes their wingspan more than double that of a mosquito!

When it comes to their body, although long and slender like its counterpart, their color can vary based on the species. Typically, crane flies can be yellow, gray, black, brown or red.

Their antennae aren’t hairy like mosquitos, but each one is long and segmented. Their legs are super long, and measure at twice the length of their body, or 5 inches long 

Another major difference in that instead of a proboscis, female crane flies have a stinger-like ovipositor at the bottom of their abdomen, which is only used when laying their eggs on the ground.

Bite Vs. No Bite

Mosquito

As we all know, a mosquito will bite you at the drop of a dime! Although we find this highly annoying, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why this happens.

What makes a mosquito bite possible is a factor that I mentioned earlier, the proboscis. This thin mouth part is what allows the mosquito to break through your skin and literally drain you of your life force. 

This mechanism also allows the female to spit it’s saliva inside of you to keep in unaware of its actions.

To add more to the interesting factor of biting, only female mosquitos will bite you. The reason why this is true is because the blood that they take is used a nutrients and protein for the eggs that they carry.

Crane Fly

Crane flies have been nicknamed “mosquito eaters” because of their size. But contrary to popular belief, crane flies do not eat mosquitos.

In fact, crane flies don’t bite much of anything because they don’t have teeth, nor a siphon apparatus like mosquitos! 

Although the females ovipositor may look like a stinger or sucker, it is not. It’s primary, and only, use is to aid in the egg development process. 

Overall, the lifespan of a crane fly is on average only 12 days, give or take two or three days. Therefore, they have enough time to lay their eggs and pass on, giving them no time to feast on the blood of a human or other animal.

Final Thoughts

This article is a cool one in my opinion simply because we’ve all seen a crane fly and mistaken it for a giant mosquito. The wings, legs, and biting attributes are the most noticeable attributes.

Now, after researching this topic, we can now realize that these subtle differences are extremely significant when it comes to determining the difference between a mosquito and crane fly.

Timothy Collins
Timothy Collins
T.J. is an avid naturalist and writer. He's a major fan of nature, and uses his skills to provide interesting information about the critters that reside in it.

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