Crane Fly - Tipula (Platytipula) paterifera
Family Tipulidae -- crane flies, tipules
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Live adult flies photographed in the wild at North American locations.
Crane Fly
This species is a late autumnal species (16-19 mm) found especially in lawn, grassy areas, and humid areas along ponds, marshes, and streams. Head and thorax are gray, abdomen chiefly brownish-yellow, and the abdominal tergite with a median brown stripe. Wings tinged with brown and with costal margin darken. Adults are active in later afternoon and they come rather freely to light at night. This largely midwest species (Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee) has spread all the way to the east coast (New Jersey, Maryland) in the last two decades. This species has not previously been recorded from Pennsylvania; it represents a state record and is now widespread in Pennsylvania: The Crane Flies of Pennsylvania. Thanks to Dr. Chen Young of Carnegie Museum of Natural History for identification of these specimens.
Crane Fly
Swarms of mating crane fly males dance above vegetation waiting to seize females. Around the pond where I took these pictures, there are thousands of these flies - they look like huge mosquitoes on steroids, but they cannot sting or bite. They are very clumsy fliers, their legs being twice as long as their bodies. One would think them willing photographic subjects, but they are very alert and do not sit still for very long unless caught "in the act."
Habitat: Humid areas near ponds, streams, marshes. Range: Worldwide. Food: Adults do not feed.
Larvae feed on decaying vegetation, fungi and roots.
Life Cycle: Slender eggs are laid on moist soil near open water. Larvae develop, then pupate in the soil, emerging in spring.
Crane Fly
The small, bulbous structures are called halteres. They are used for balance and vibration damping during flight. All true flies have these organs; they evolved from the (absent in flies) second set of wings present in many other insects.
References
  1. Chen Young, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, "Crane Flies of Pennsylvania"
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Flies of North America - Order Diptera. Flies are prevalent in virtually all habitats, with over 16,000 species in North America. Flies can be distinguished from all other insects in that they only have one pair of normal wings. Most flies have compound eyes and mouthparts adapted for piercing, lapping or sucking fluids.
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