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Pests - Crane Flies

You know those big mosquito-like things that have been buzzing around your yard and sticking to your windows, screens, and doors? Perhaps you know them by one of their common names: the Mosquito Hawk, May Fly, or Crane Fly. Well, this Autumn we have found ourselves inundated by these critters, and depending on how soon the temperatures drop, we may be paying the price next Spring.

Crane Flies are members of the tipulidae family of insects, and can be easily recognized by their long, gangly legs and sloppy flight pattern. They almost look like flying daddy-long legs, and are actually called by that name in some parts of the country

The life cycle of the Crane Fly is one of the least studied of all the members of the order Insecta. Females lay their eggs in the fall, and the larva, known as leather jackets, grow during the cold winter months. Leatherjackets feed on the roots of turf grass in a manner very similar to grubs, and are capable of doing significant damage if not properly controlled. In mid summer, when it is warm and humid, (conditions similar to what we have experienced the past few weeks) Crane Flies emerge from the ground to breed.

Unlike their common name would suggest, Crane flies do not eat mosquitoes, but actually feed off nectar. As a point of fact, many adult Crane Flies do not even have mouth parts and live only long enough to reproduce before dying. And while females have an compositor that is stinger-like in appearance, crane flies are virtually harmless.

However, when populations reach numbers like those we have seen recently it is likely that we will see substantial numbers of leather jackets infesting lawns next spring.

At this point, there is nothing that can be done. The female flues will lay their eggs and die within a few days of the first frost. But next spring, topical applications can be made to your turf that will prevent the leather jackets from doing extensive damage. If you have suspicion that you may have an infestation, the following steps should be taken to determine whether or not you should give us a call:

1) Select four areas that appear damaged, or are places where fround birds like Robins and Starlings seem to congregate.

2) Use a butter knife to cut a six inch by six inch square in the turf. Carefully peel back grass.

3) First look for leather jackets feeding on the roots of the grass plant, this is where they will be most visible. Next, examine the sides of your grass sample and larva. Finally, break up some of the grass sample to get an idea of the number of leather jackets embedded in the soil.

4) Carefully replace the grass patch.

5) Multiply the number of leather jackets found by four to get the number oer square foot. Repeat this process three more times to get the average number of leather jackets per square foot in your lawn.

Depending on the number of leather jackets per square foot, the following steps may be needed:

0-25 Do nothing, these are normal levels. Unless grass is young there is no need to treat it.

25-30 Consider taking action to eliminate the problem. Depending on the health of your lawn it might be necessary to apply treatments.