May 12, 2010
Craneflies fly at night and seek shade during the day. Many begin life in streams and ponds as long, fat, white worms, and their physiology is geared toward cool and damp.
This orange species sought perch inside a cluster of Virginia creeper leaves, refuge from the sun all afternoon until evening light crept in.
In damp Southern Appalachia, craneflies are among the most speciose insects, coming in a variety of sizes and patterns. Few are as colorful as the one in the photo, but some have black markings on their wings or abdomen that add a bit of flair. Most are weak fliers, slow and drifting, with their long legs serving as bumpers and feelers.
Sometimes called mosquito hawks or mistaken for mosquitoes, crane flies have tiny, weak mouthparts used primarily to slurp water. Their long abdomen is a storehouse of fats eaten during wormhood, so they have little or no need to eat in adult form and are harmless to man and mosquito alike.