header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 30
2013 - Actor Paul Walker ("Fast & Furious" movies) dies in a fiery car crash in the Valencia Industrial Center. [story]
Paul Walker

| Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Apr 27, 2017

Sometimes the change in nature around you is subtle, and you have to pay close attention to notice anything at all … a tree is in bloom for just a week and you will have to wait until next year if you miss it. You might get only a quick glimpse of the Western tanager right now in your backyard; it is a migrant bird that certainly was not there a few weeks ago.

On the other hand, some changes hit you smack in the face. This is the case with the insect called crane flies – which some people call mosquito hawks.

In fact they are not mosquito hawks, and they are not going to eat any mosquitos, either. They do not even have mouth parts. They won’t sting you, bite you or attack you in any way, shape or form. They are totally harmless.

Crane flies look like giant, fragile, super-huge mosquitos with balance problems. Right now you see them everywhere during the day and in the evening, especially around your porch lights. I even had one go inside my dryer, presumably attracted by the light. I left the door open, and it left again with a goofy flight, bouncing left and right.

You might try to catch one gently from inside your house to release it outside, but you can be sure that one or two legs will be caught, even with the most careful touch. Some people cannot stand them because they do not seem to be much in control of their flight, and they often end up right front of our faces or caught in our hair.

I was wondering why they are called crane flies. I learned they got that name because they seem to resemble the birds, the crane, in that they have a slow flight and let their long legs dangle behind them during flight. Both share an awkward look in flight, so this is how it got started.

Crane flies are flies from the family Tipulidae. They are insects, but they are not related to mosquitoes at all.

We seem to have a large population this year, and there might be some indication that many larvae were able to change into flies because of the wet spring. I should tell you the good news right now: Their lifespan is short, two weeks maximum, so they are not here to stay for the whole summer.

The adults sometimes absorb nectar through their body, but their only purpose is to mate, and for the female to lay eggs. Females look a little different from males: They have a larger abdomen, and it ends in a pointed ovipositor. But remember again, they cannot sting. It is all for show. It only looks like a stinger.

The female has larger wings than the male and also flies in a straighter line; as we know, the male does not control that very well.

After mating, the male dies and the female shoots the eggs onto the ground. The eggs will hatch and will become “leather jackets,” a larva often found in lawns. They are called “leather jackets” because they look “leathery,” are brown and grey in color, and grow to a nice size of 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches long.

Although the parents do not eat a thing, the larva eats all the time – wood, vegetation shoots and roots. At night, they come out to munch on grass and flowers. In the winter, the feeding frenzy slows down and they start to weave a cocoon for protection. Inside the cocoon, they transform themselves into crane flies, waiting to come out when spring is here.

Why should we protect these insects and not chase after them with a fly swatter? If you want to do that, you will win every time, because they are the worst flying insects I have ever seen. However, they are also great food for birds. Think about all of those baby birds that just came out of the nest and which still need to learn a thing or two about being great hunters. These are a perfect meal for those adolescents.

They are also food for reptiles and amphibians – frog season is in full action right now, and you must have noticed all of the new lizards about.

People have noticed that crane flies are great fishing bait and have studied their configuration to use them as models for making artificial lures.

You can learn the most about crane flies from the U.S. entomologist Charles Paul Alexander (1889-1981) who devoted his life to this study. The order is divided into 15,000 species and 525 genera of crane flies, making them the largest group of flies, well worth getting some of our attention.

But there are still many facts that are totally unknown. For many species, we have never seen the larvae … but they must be somewhere. Also, most crane flies have big eyes, but we do not know how well they see. Some males in certain species have antennae with very elongated segments compared to the females, but we do not know why or what are they used for.

The courtship and communication between females and males brings more questions than answers, and different species have different behavior. Some males get into an all-male swarm to attract the females, while others fly around with their forelegs outstretched, using a contact pheromone to invite a partner.

It is kind of fun to think about all of those little secrets that baffle humans in spite of many studies.

Yes, I know they can be a pain when you open your door at night and a handful is waiting to enter your house. I know it does not seem fair to try to “whoosh out” an insect that drops legs so easily. It can be annoying to have a crane fly going through your home like a drunk, hitting the walls and getting stuck in corners without finding an escape.

Bear with it. They will soon be gone. Just a few more days.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center since 1986. She lives in Newhall.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. It’s in my backyard….here I thought they were Mosquitos!

  2. Melody Vito Melody Vito says:

    Usually see them called crane flies.

  3. Bob Shepler Bob Shepler says:

    Yep. Go out every morning an look around. Do it all year

  4. They are gentle and they eat mosquitos

  5. I have notice that there’s less and less am off Sand and Sierra.

  6. Great article Evelyne!

  7. Blake Frye Blake Frye says:

    50 of these in my friends garage the other night

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021
In last month’s blog I listed the many unusual animals DACC has impounded throughout the years. I challenged readers to guess which two species of animals that DACC has not impounded, promising to reveal the answer in this month’s blog.
Tuesday, Nov 2, 2021
October 30 was the day we cut the ribbon and welcomed residents to the new Canyon Country Community Center.
Monday, Nov 1, 2021
Tis the season to celebrate, and I know I cannot wait to come together as a community, once again, to kick off the holiday season at Light Up Main Street! This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, Oct 14, 2021
People are often surprised when I tell them the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) cares for animals other than dogs and cats.
Monday, Oct 4, 2021
The culmination of a major project is always an exciting time.
Friday, Oct 1, 2021
It is time to celebrate everything that makes Santa Clarita an All-Star City! We are thrilled to once again hold our landmark State of the City event in person for 2021. The big event will be held on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 3:00 p.m. at the brand-new Canyon Country Community Center.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Join the Valley Industry Association Friday, Dec. 17, at 11:45 a.m., for its 2022 Board Installation Luncheon.
Wilk to Preside Over VIA’s 2022 Board Installation Luncheon
The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation combats animal cruelty by paying for officer training, equipment, and supplies to enforce animal cruelty laws, rescue abused and neglected animals, and support prosecution of animal abusers.
County Animal Care, Control Seeking ‘Giving Tuesday’ Donations
The William S. Hart Union High School District has been awarded the National Empowered Seal for its commitment to whole-child education by EVERFI.
EVERFI Awards Hart District National Empowered Seal
Now that the Thanksgiving weekend has passed, I would like to reflect on what I am thankful for.
Message from CIF-SS Commissioner | ‘I am Thankful’
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday 28 new deaths and 843 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 39,094 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Tuesday COVID Roundup: SCV Nearing 40,000 Total Cases
2013 - Actor Paul Walker ("Fast & Furious" movies) dies in a fiery car crash in the Valencia Industrial Center. [story]
Paul Walker
The city of Santa Clarita is holding virtual meeting regarding the Santa Clarita Arts/Culture and Veterans Center Needs Assessment on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 6:00 p.m.
Dec. 1: City’s Arts/Culture, Veterans Center Needs Assessment Meeting
The city of Santa Clarita’s Film Office released the 14 productions currently filming in the Santa Clarita Valley for the week of Monday, Nov. 29 - Sunday, Dec. 5
Filming in Santa Clarita Includes 14 Productions
Looking for ways to add a little green into your landscape?
SCV Water’s Upcoming Gardening Class to Highlight Trees, Shrubs
Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division searched the Chiquita Canyon Landfill Monday to investigate the disappearance of Heidi Planck, who was reported missing by her ex-husband on Oct. 20, 2021.
Homicide Detectives Search Chiquita Canyon for Missing Woman
Circle of Hope is joining the national day of generosity, #GivingTuesday, on Dec. 1.
Circle of Hope Taking Part in Giving Tuesday
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Monday 10 new deaths and 794 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 39,063 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Monday COVID Roundup: SCV Tops 39,000 Total Cases
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Community Education Department is again offering the Prevent T2 National Diabetes Prevention Program, a lifestyle change program that helps those who are at risk of developing diabetes reduce their blood sugar, lose weight, and reverse prediabetes. 
Diabetes Prevention Program Returning to Henry Mayo
1957 - Incorporation of Mint Canyon Chamber of Commerce; became Canyon Country Chamber [story]
Frontier Days
1950 - CalArts grad Ed Harris ("A Beautiful Mind," "Apollo 13," "Westworld") born in New Jersey [link]
Ed Harris
1941 - Funeral for "our" Remi Nadeau, whose Canyon Country deer park became North Oaks [story]
Remi Nadeau
Volunteers are needed to help make fresh garland and vintage-style decorations for the Antelope Valley Indian Museum in preparation for Holidays on the Homestead.
Antelope Valley Indian Museum Looking for Volunteers to Decorate for the Holidays
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials confirmed Friday 29 new deaths and 2,073 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 38,955 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Friday COVID Roundup: County Releases Data from the Last 7 Days
Find something for everyone at the various events happening in Santa Clarita this holiday season including Six Flags Magic Mountain's magical winter experience, an international film festival and holiday shows.
City Highlights Activities for Holiday Fun in Santa Clarita
The city of Santa Clarita's Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission will hold its Regular Meeting Thursday, Dec. 2, at 6:00 p.m.
Dec. 2: Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission Regular Meeting
1916 - A score of Wobblies bust up Newhall Jail after commandeering SP freight train [story]
Wobblies logo
The Antelope Valley Indian Museum announced it will host the 10th annual Holidays on the Homestead celebration on Saturday, Dec, 4 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Dec. 4: Antelope Valley Indian Museum Invites All to 10th Annual ‘Holidays on the Homestead’
Every November in honor of National Family Caregiver Month, Los Angeles County Department Of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS) recognizes the important role of Los Angeles County's caregivers who provide essential care, support and medical assistance to older and dependent adults.
WDACS Celebrates Caregivers in LA County
%d bloggers like this: