Do Crane Flies Eat Mosquitos?

Crane flies and mosquitos have the unfortunate problem of constantly being mixed up and mistaken for one another.

After all, crane flies are often called “Mosquito Eaters”, “Skeeter Eaters”, “Giant Mosquitoes” or “Mosquito Hawks” because of their size and appearance.

But there’s a constant back and forth inquiry of whether or not crane flies eat mosquitos. Do they, don’t they?

Yes Or No?

No, crane flies do not eat mosquitos

I know what you’re thinking: “If they don’t eat mosquitos, then why do people think they do?”

Good question. Let’s dive into that some more.

The Misconception

To dispel the confusion, crane flies are mistaken for eating mosquitos simply because they look like a larger version of a mosquito. Because they look alike, we assume that, since the crane fly is much bigger, it would eat the smaller version of “itself”.

But that’s not the case.

There are several significant factors that will help us tell the two apart. A crane fly has a different type of mouth, as well as a different diet from a mosquito. 

Knowing the difference is what will help you understand why crane flies do not eat mosquitos.

Crane Flies Mouth Anatomy

Crane flies have a similar anatomy to mosquito. The major difference, outside of their size, is their mouth and how it’s used.

The variation between the two mouths is what gives mosquitos the power to obtain their protein from the blood of a mammal – whether it be an animal or human, – while crane flies luckily do not possess this type of strength.

There’s a logical reason for this fact: crane flies simply do not have the specific mouthpieces to break the thickness of mammal skin, find the right blood vessels, and siphon blood out. 

But mosquitos do.

Mosquito Appendages

To gain nutrients for their young, mosquitos will harvest blood using their specially designed mouthparts, called the proboscis. The labium is used for stability, while their mandibles and maxillae are used to piece the skin, and dig as deep as it can within you body.

From their, a mosquito’s hypopharynx is used to pump their saliva into your bloodstream to keep your blood flowing, while it uses its labrum to suck blood directly from the vessel to its own body.

Crane flies do not possess these features. 

Crane Fly Appendages

While most crane flies don’t even have a proboscis, some crane flies do. It’s an elongated and largely sized appendage located on the face of an animal. On the crane fly, it’s typically described as tubular mouthpiece that’s used to eat nectar.

They also do not have a labium, maxillae, hypopharynx, or labrum. Therefore, they are physically incapable of piercing your skin and harming you, and their behavior is the same towards mosquito.

Crane Fly Diet 

Crane flies and mosquitos cross paths again when it comes to their diet. Most crane flies have the ability to soak or absorb the liquid from fruits. 

They love to feast on the dew from the surface of fruit, or grass, as well as the sweetness of organic fruit juice or honey water. In addition to fruits and their juices, crane flies also feed on the delicious nectar of any flower that will provide it with some nutrients.

What separates these flies and mosquitos onto different paths is the ability, and desire, to ingest blood.

While mosquitos mainly use blood as their primary source of protein, crane flies use a different one. When in larvae form, they will munch on various objects, which aids them in their growth out of the larvae stage, and into its adult stage.

Once it enters into adulthood, it will efficiently begin to utilize its fat storage as a means for flying around to collect other forms of natural energy, as they continuously neglect blood as a viable source.

Considerations

As you can see, it’s apparent that crane flies do not eat mosquitos; however, there is one solid heed that I’d like to bring up that also plays a role into the misconception of crane flies eating mosquitos.

Specifically speaking, there have been known studies that have concluded the fact that crane fly larvae, commonly known as “leather jackets” will eat mosquito larvae.

Both mosquito and crane flies have similar habitats of low-lying grassy areas, warm and humid temperatures, and standing water. Because of their ability to share, they will both lay their eggs in the same area, or even the same body of still water.

Crane Fly Leather Jackets

As the crane fly instars progresses, both eggs grow into pupae, and then into the larvae phase. This is where they are capable of moving on their own to feed for energy and further growth. 

As I said earlier, crane flies are much bigger than mosquitos; therefore, their larvae will be much bigger than a mosquito’s. With that image, a crane fly larvae will search the soil, grass, water, and even bird nest for organic material to eat. 

And since the mosquito eggs and larvae are usually nearby, they are typically the first to be eaten by crane fly larvae. This fact certainly cleared up a lot for me, so let me share with you this newfound clarity. 

Since crane fly larvae occasionally eat the larvae of mosquitos, a metaphorical trampoline is pulled out in order to jump to the conclusion that adult crane flies will eat adult mosquitos.

But as we can see, this isn’t true. 

Final Thoughts

A name more fitting for dragonflies, crane flies are often called “Mosquito Eaters” or “Mosquito Hawks” because of their size and appearance; yet there is so much more to them.

Crane flies are pretty docile creatures, and tend to only live a few days. They don’t have the necessary tools to bite or siphon blood from anyone, and they enjoy fruit.

Outside of the way they look, both mosquitos and us have very little to fear from these natural creatures. Wish I could say the same for mosquito larvae.

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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