You are likely to have seen them trying to fly into your house more than once: Giant long-legged mosquitoes with no understanding of the concept of windows. Some people refer to these mosquito species with huge wings, torso and legs as crane flies, which is actually the name of the most common species of long-legged mosquito-like insects. Why do some of these insects get so big? Are they dangerous or harmless? Let’s find out.
It’s pretty normal for people to fear the big, scare insects more than the little nasty stingers. That’s a natural reaction and completely understandable. But the long legs shouldn’t be feared too much, since they can’t be as sneaky as the little mosquitoes that crawl through all the tiny nooks in your door. You can actually stop that using a simple door curtain like this (please note, that’s going to bring you to Amazon).
Even if they would fold up those massive legs, they would never be able to fit! So isn’t having long legs actually a nuisance? No, their larger build actually has a very practical and direct purpose.
Why Do Some Mosquitoes Have Long Legs?
Most mosquitoes have a relatively slender torso with long legs and wings. This is true for practically all mosquito species. The larger varieties, such as crane flies, have notably long legs due to them being larger overall. While most mosquitoes are below 15mm, the longer ones can have legs up to 6.5cm in size.
The reason for their size is mostly the purpose of their adult lives, which is to find a mate and die. This might seem rather sad existence for their adult lifespan, but it keeps the species alive and thriving. Their adult build is usually exclusively created for the purpose of mating, for which they use their long legs to hold on to their mate.
However, it must be noted that the larger varieties are not actually mosquitoes in the biological sense, but they are better referred to as “mosquito-like insects”. These are insects which merely share some common characteristics with our buzzing blood-sucking friends. The long legs do also exist on regular mosquito species, yet these are smaller than what most people mean with “those mosquitoes with long legs”.
What Are The Big Bugs That Look Like Mosquitoes?
The oversized variety of mosquito is called a crane fly, also popularly known as ‘mosquito hawks’ or ‘daddy longlegs’. These are big bugs with a very short lifespan. While they do look like mosquitoes, they are actually mosquito-like insects. Because the resemblance is close, these big bugs get mistaken for mosquitoes often.
There is actually a large variety of different crane fly species, which are commonly known as belonging to the Tipulidae family tree of insects, in the order Diptera. If you were wondering, that’s where they belong biologically and that’s not where the blood-sucking stingers are. Which actually brings us to the second point that I wanted to mention. That’s the question if crane flies are even remotely dangerous to us humans.
Is A Crane Fly Harmful?
No, crane flies are not harmful to humans and will not attempt to sting you or suck your blood. However, crane fly larvae are known to be dangerous towards a range of animals, which they eat to be able to survive. Humans do not need to worry about a crane fly being harmful to them or to our pets and livestock.
This is mainly because neither people nor the animals we domesticate are the prey of these creatures. Despite their sometimes impressive size, the worst thing that could happen is one flying into your eye or mouth. This might be gross, but it will certainly not kill you.
The long legs don’t sting and the adults are not necessarily attracted towards the smell of sweat or exhaled breath, unlike the common mosquito. Actually, the legs come off pretty easily (eww, gross), and all they really want to do in their adult life is actually quite depressing towards us humans.
What Is The Purpose Of Crane Flies?
A crane fly has a sole purpose after their larvae stage: To reproduce and find a mate. That’s all it does in its short adult life, which sometimes is only days long. The crane fly also has a major purpose biologically: They play a key role in many types of ecosystems, both as predator and prey.
In the larvae stage, the crane fly will fulfill a different purpose: It mainly does it’s job as predator and keeps in check some of the other species by eating them. When they grow older, the end of their lives is near really fast. Female crane flies will usually lie eggs within 24 hours after being able to fly. In that time, their overall diet is probably not what you would expect it to be. It’s actually a pretty sad story, I don’t recommend ever being an adult crane fly.
Crane Fly Diet: What Do They Eat?
As larvae, a crane fly might eat algae, microflora, plant matter, and wood. However, they can also prefer a predatory diet, which can include other insects, spiders, fish, amphibians and even birds or mammals. Adult crane flies do not eat at all. Crane fly adults solely focus their short lives on reproduction.
So, if you ever see one of those big “mosquitoes” dance in front of your window, there is certainly no need to feed them your leftover Cheeto’s. They don’t want your blood either, because humans are not on the menu. Not even for the purpose of reproduction, which these long-legged insects actually do without the need for annoying us to death.
But does this mean we should not be afraid of the massive size of these creatures? Perhaps they’re territorial and don’t like others in their immediate vicinity. Perhaps they have the temper of wasps, and try to make your life miserable just for the fun of it. Nope, as it turns out none of all of these things are true for these so-called big mosquitoes.
Are Giant Mosquitoes Dangerous?
When we say “giant mosquito”, of course, we refer to the infamous crane fly. These long-legged insects are certainly not dangerous. While you might see them as big mosquitoes, all they really are is the non-dangerous gentle-giant version of a regular mosquito. Crane flies pose no danger to humans at all.
However, it can make sense to not want these big insects to enter your house. An effective remedy against unwanted intruders in your home can be as simple as this fiberglass window screen. Installing one on your windows is as easy as hanging up a curtain. They also repel other types of flying insects (especially regular mosquitoes), while keeping your indoors a bit cooler at night.
Whether they are big or small, insects can be a nuisance nonetheless. But understanding some basic differences can save you a lot of unnecessary fights and fears along the way. Let’s look at some of the major differences between a mosquito that stings you, and crane flies, or as you might call them: Those “giant mosquitoes” with huge legs.
Crane Fly vs. Mosquito: What Are The Differences?
If we compare the crane fly and the mosquito, there are some significant differences to be found. In short, these are the major alterations between the two very similar species:
- Mosquitoes bite humans, crane flies don’t do that;
- Mosquitoes must eat sugar to live, crane flies don’t eat at all;
- A crane fly has a much shorter adult life than a mosquito;
- A mosquito is less fragile than a crane fly (of which you can pull the legs right off);
- Crane flies don’t have a stinger to bite, while mosquitoes do;
- Mosquito larvae can be cannibalistic, while crane flies generally are not (see this article for more details);
- Both can have different coloring (depending on the subspecies);
- Crane flies are not attracted to breathing and heat;
- Both species belong to a completely different biological order;
- One is obviously larger than the other!
How Big Can A Mosquito Get?
The giant mosquitoes are often mistaken to belong to the mosquito species, but are actually crane flies. The size of regular mosquitoes varies between 12.7mm (0.5 inches) and about 25.4mm (1 inch), while the crane fly can become up to 6.5cm in size. There can obviously be anomalies to these measurements.
So the real mosquitoes are actually a lot smaller than commonly thought. I’m talking about the species that generally wants your blood, of course. While most people will experience the size of a mosquito differently based on their local circumstances (food availability can influence growth), the range mentioned is usually pretty accurate for an average measurement around the globe.
If you’re feeling like learning some more things about mosquitoes, I’d like to propose a philosophical question to you: If a mosquito would bite a drunk person, would the blood in the mosquitoes body make it drunk as well? That’s what this article is all about, and the results might actually surprise you!
2 thoughts on “Why Do Some Mosquitoes Have Long Legs (Such As A Giant Crane Fly)?”
Interesting article. In Ohio we called the crane flies galley nippers. Nice to known their real name.
I grew up calling them skalliwags which sounded fun to a kid. We were never afraid of them, they fly in a zig zaggy way. I like them as well as daddy long leg spiders. Both harmless and goofy.