Every year in the autumn, an mini invertebrate invasion begins in the UK. During this time, the press predictably roll out their best efforts to turn us into gibbering, broom clutching, stool-perching cartoons…
Due to the warm weather we’ve been experiencing in the last few years, the Autumn time has been a bumper time for creepy crawlies, such as the crane fly; known colloquially as the ‘daddy long legs’ (pictured above). The crane fly lineage (Tipulidae) can be traced back to the same period as the T. rex (the dinosaur not the band). However, they are ill-adapted to human structures. The gawky mosquito-like insect can often be seen bumbling around the corners of our homes, occasionally having a break from it’s wall hugging to fly straight into our unsuspecting faces.
Unfortunately, many of these clickbait articles about the crane fly confuse them with harvestmen spiders, which are known as a daddy long legs in the USA (the perils of Wikipedia research!). So, lets debunk three myths you are likely to see, come Autumn, about the daddy long-legs!
1. 6 legs, not 8
Crane flies are not arachnids. Having 6 legs instead of 8. This point is illustrated eloquently and humbly by David Brent (formerly of Wernham Hogg, Slough) at the 22 second mark
‘’Shame on you! …8 legs 6 legs 8 legs 6 legs… Count them!”David Brent
2. Crane flies don’t spin webs
I’ve seen this advice before from a national newspaper when I first published this article in 2015, the paper wrote: ”hoover up webs or egg sacks and throw them straight in the bin to prevent more from breeding”. Crane flies don’t spin webs or lay egg sacks, they deposit eggs directly into the ground – bizarrely – the newspaper article at the time also mentioned this, contradicting themselves: ‘These pesky arachnids lay their eggs in grass and other parts of the garden”. I’m beginning to think using Wikipedia for national news articles isn’t a fantastic idea!
3. They don’t help to control insects
Crane flies very rarely feed in their adult form save from occasionally lapping up nectar, their only purpose at this stage is to breed. They soon perish after a few days due to lack of consumption. A harvestman arachnid on the other hand would prey on small insects.
More information on the crane fly can be found in this scientific paper.