Crane Fly - Erioptera (Symplecta) cana
Family Tipulidae - crane flies, tipules
 
Tipulidae is the largest family of Diptera with about 1,500 species in North America
Crane Fly - Erioptera (Symplecta) cana
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Adults of this small (6-7 mm) gray crane fly are the first species to appear in the spring, when most vegetation has not yet started growing. They are common and abundant in the spring in nearly all wooded habitats and open grasslands. The fall generation is less conspicuous. The larval stages are found in saturated earth along water edges. There is only one species in this genus found in North America. This species is wide spread throughout North America, as far south as the mountains of Central America.*

This specimen was photographed May 15, 2005 near the banks of the DuPage River, West Branch near Winfield IL.

Adult crane flies are sluggish fliers and are often abundant in moist woodlands and around water, usually near places where their larval life is spent.  They occur mainly in spring and fall, but species of wingless, snow crane flies (Chionea) appear in the winter.  Adult crane flies are most active in the cooler part of the day, usually around dusk.  Adult males are more abundant at the beginning of the flight period while females are more numerous toward the end.  Although individual adults have a relatively short life span of 10 to 15 days, the flight period for each species can last from 25-30 days.  The main functions of the adult stage are mating and egg-laying.  Feeding is less important, and probably water is the most pressing need. Species with elongated rostrum (Geranomyia, Elephantomyia, Toxorhina) have been reported visiting flowers, probably for nectar. (1)

Crane flies undergo complete metamorphosis in their development with a brief egg stage, a relatively long larval feeding stage, a brief pupal resting stage, and finally a short adult breeding stage.

Crane flies serve several important roles in the ecosystem.  Most importantly, adult and larval crane flies are food for many animals such as birds, fish, frogs, lizards, spiders and other insects.  In addition, the larvae are detritus feeders that break down organic matter in various habitats such as streams and forest floors thereby enriching the soil, renewing and modifying the microhabitat for other invertebrate species.  Some crane flies require special habitat conditions, and their presence or absence can be used as an indicator of environmental quality.  Fishermen use larvae of some large crane flies as bait.  Several species of crane flies are important agricultural pests; their larvae feed on seedlings of field crops and if abundant can be destructive to lawns, rangelands, rice fields, and golf courses.

References
  1. 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. The other pair has evolved into small ball-like structures called halteres. Most flies have compound eyes and mouthparts adapted for piercing, lapping or sucking fluids.
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