May 11, 2010

Do Mosquito Eaters Eat Mosquitos?

Have you seen more Crane Flies (commonly known as mosquito eaters) around than usual? There are a lot of them, but the name mosquito eater is a bit deceptive.
Crane fly, or "mosquito eater"
Photo courtesy of Pinzo, Wikimedia Commons

Despite their common name, crane flies do not prey on mosquitoes as adults, nor do they bite humans. Adult crane flies feed on nectar or they do not feed at all. You see, once they become adults, most crane fly species exist only to mate and die. Their larvae, called "leatherjackets", "leatherbacks", "leatherback bugs" or "leatherjacket slugs", consume roots (such as those of turf grass) and other vegetation, in some cases causing damage to plants.

FUN FACT: The crane fly is occasionally considered a mild turf pest in some areas. For example, in 1935, Lord's Cricket Ground in London was among the venues affected by leatherjackets. Several thousand of the little creatures were collected by ground staff and burned because they caused bald patches on the pitch, giving balls an unusual sort of spin for much of the 1935 cricket season.

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