It was April 8th, a Friday, and I had just arrived home from work. Hubs was leaving work shortly. I noticed that one of the figs was wilted and was in serious need of water. I noticed motion and all of a sudden this mosquito-like insect appeared out of nowhere, startling me. It’s April, where the heck did a mosquito come from? I snapped the above photo and sent it to hubs, asking him what it was.
When he arrived home, he dealt with it. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Almost every day since April 8th, we continue to find one of these in our kitchen. Hubs did some research and told me it was a crane fly. They must be hatching from the soil of at least one of our fig plants. The fig trees have all been outdoors all summer, so there’s a good chance that an insect could have laid eggs and the eggs overwintered with the figs in the garage.
This is not the typical time for crane flies to be emerging, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture; however, the life cycle may have been altered due to indoor conditions. Based on information from this site, plus a number of others, this is how the typical life cycle would look in Ontario, Canada.
We first started taking the figs outdoors for short periods of time last weekend, and out in the sun, hubs was able to identify the pupal casings from which the crane flies emerged from. The immature stages, instars 1-3, are known as leatherjackets because they are light gray to brown, worm-like maggots, up to 4 centimetres long, with a tough outer skin.
We have unsuccessful been looking for a larvae that has started to peak out of the soil in order to take time lapse photos. Part of the problem is that we are not sure what it looks like, but also, we think it’s just plain difficult to detect. We think the crane fly emerging from the pupa would be fascinating to witness, as it basically unfolds itself and comes out whole, with those long legs.
I’ve read that they feed off nectar or nothing, since adult crane flies only live for a few days. Basically, they exist long enough to mate and lay eggs. Here’s a closer shot of an adult crane fly in our kitchen, taken by hubs before he set this one free outside. If he’s able to catch them without breaking any of their stick-thin legs, he’ll set them free. I wonder if any of them have actually found a mate out there before dying? I wonder how many more we will continue to find in our kitchen until we can leave our figs outside for the season?
Yes, they do look scary, but they are harmless to humans. They do not bite or sting. Outdoors, they are known to damage lawns. Maybe that’s why our lawn isn’t particularly attractive?