crane fly and mosquito side to side

Crane Fly vs. Mosquito: Key Differences

Have you ever seen a flying insect and wondered if it was a mosquito or something else? Insects have unique characteristics, so it can be difficult to tell them apart. Two common winged insects are crane flies and mosquitoes.

Knowing the key differences between these two bugs can help you identify them when you see them in the wild. Let’s look at distinguishing a crane fly from a mosquito and ways to protect yourself from these pests.

Key Pest Points:

• Crane flies, also known as “daddy longlegs,” resemble oversized mosquitoes with long, fragile legs and slender bodies. However, unlike mosquitoes, crane flies do not possess a proboscis for feeding on blood.

• Mosquitoes are notorious bloodsuckers, feeding on the blood of humans and animals. In contrast, crane flies are harmless to humans and primarily feed on nectar or do not feed at all during their adult stage.

• To prevent mosquito bites, applying repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants in areas where mosquitoes are present is crucial. However, crane flies do not feed on humans or animals, so they pose no threat to us.

What is a Crane Fly?

The crane fly are also known as “daddy longlegs” in some regions. These delicate creatures often create confusion due to their long, slender bodies and similar appearance to the mosquito. But fear not, crane flies are harmless and play a vital role in our ecosystem.

Physical Characteristics

The crane fly boasts a slender body with long legs that can span up to four inches. Unlike mosquitoes, they lack the proboscis (the long, needle-like mouthpart) commonly associated with bloodsuckers. Instead, crane flies short, non-biting mouthparts designed for feeding on nectar and other plant fluids.

Looking down upon a daddy longlegs or crane fly on a leaf with wings open over a green garden background.

Habitat and Behavior

While mosquitoes are often found near stagnant water sources, crane flies prefer damp environments such as meadows, forests, and gardens. These nocturnal creatures are particularly active during summer and are attracted to outdoor lights.

Feeding Habits

Crane flies are not bloodsuckers. They don’t feed on humans or animals at all. These gentle giants primarily feed on nectar and pollen, making them important pollinators in our ecosystem. Understanding what do crane flies eat can help you understand the attractants that can keep them coming back in your yard.

What is a Mosquito?

Now, let’s turn our attention to the mosquito, a tiny but mighty insect that has earned itself quite a reputation as a bloodsucker. While some mosquito species feed on nectar, most females require a blood meal for successful reproduction.

Physical Characteristics

Mosquitoes are smaller than crane flies, with an average length of about ¼ to ½ inches. Their bodies are more compact, featuring a distinctive narrow abdomen and long, slender wings. The most recognizable feature of the female mosquito is her needle-like proboscis, used to pierce the skin and extract blood.

Habitat and Behavior

Mosquitoes thrive in many environments but particularly favor areas with stagnant water. Ponds, puddles, and even water-filled containers in your backyard can serve as breeding grounds for these pesky insects. Mosquitoes are mainly active during dusk and dawn, preferring to rest in cool and shaded areas during the day.

Mosquito perched on a green leaf

Feeding Habits

While male mosquitoes feed solely on nectar, female mosquitoes have a different agenda. They require the proteins found in blood to produce eggs. When a female mosquito lands on your skin, she uses her proboscis to locate a suitable blood vessel and skillfully pierces the skin.

Key Differences Between Crane Flies and Mosquitoes

Now that we have explored the individual characteristics of crane flies and mosquitoes, let’s highlight the key differences that set them apart:

  • Crane flies have short, non-biting mouthparts called maxillary palps. In contrast, mosquitoes have elongated mouthparts called proboscis, which they use to pierce the skin and extract blood.
  • Size is another distinguishing factor between crane flies and mosquitoes. Crane flies are generally larger insects with slender bodies and long legs. Mosquitoes have a more compact body structure, featuring a narrow abdomen and long, delicate wings.
  • Crane flies feed on nectar and other plant fluids, making them important pollinators. On the other hand, female mosquitoes require a blood meal to support their egg development. They have specialized sensors that detect the carbon dioxide and body heat emitted by warm-blooded animals, including humans.
  • While crane flies are harmless and do not pose health risks to humans or animals, mosquitoes can cause concern due to their potential role in disease transmission.

Understanding the differences between mosquito vs. crane fly can help us appreciate their roles in our ecosystem and enable us to make informed decisions about their management. While both insects are part of the fascinating world of flying creatures, it’s essential to recognize their distinct characteristics and behaviors to coexist peacefully with them.

How to Get Rid of Crane Flies and Mosquitoes From Your Yard

Because of their potential danger to human health, taking steps for mosquito control in your yard is crucial. Here are some tips on how you can reduce or prevent a mosquito infestation in your outdoor spaces:

  • Remove standing water: Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so eliminating any sources of standing water in your yard is crucial—empty and clean birdbaths, flowerpots, gutters, and any containers that can collect water.
Close-up of the hands of a gardener in a red plaid shirt, who is pruning dry yellow branches.
  • Maintain your lawn: Mow your yard regularly and trim overgrown vegetation. Mosquitoes tend to rest in tall grass and bushes, so keeping your yard well-maintained reduces their hiding spots.
  • Install screens: Ensure all windows and doors have properly fitting screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Employ mosquito traps: Set up mosquito traps or bug zappers in your yard to attract and capture adult mosquitoes. These devices can help reduce the mosquito population significantly.
  • Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours: Mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk, so limit outdoor activities if possible.
  • Use mosquito netting: If you have a patio or outdoor seating area, consider hanging mosquito netting to create a protective barrier against these pesky insects.
  • Install lightingMosquitoes are attracted to light, so installing yellow-tinted bulbs around your property can help reduce the number of mosquitoes attracted to your yard.
  • Seek professional help: If mosquito infestation persists despite your efforts, consider contacting a professional pest control service that specializes in mosquito control. They can provide effective treatments tailored to your yard’s needs.

Remember, a combination of preventive measures and proactive mosquito control strategies will help create a more mosquito-free environment in your yard, allowing you to enjoy outdoor activities without constantly swatting away these bothersome insects.


Do crane flies bite like mosquitoes?

No, crane flies do not bite humans or animals. They lack mouthparts capable of piercing skin and, therefore, cannot feed on blood.

Do crane flies eat mosquitoes?

No, crane flies are not predators of mosquitoes. Instead, they eat decaying organic matter and roots of grasses.

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