Bittacomorpha clavipes

Phantom Crane Fly

Bittacomorpha clavipes, Phantom Crane Fly adult in the family Ptchopteridae


Family: Ptychopteridae

Subfamily: Bittacomorphinae

Length: 10-14 mm


Bittacomorpha clavipes has the unusual trait of flying with its legs extended perpendicular to the ground. It looks a bit like a flying snowflake. Undoubtedly its odd appearance in flight serves to confuse predators, and it must be nearly invisible to an avian predator looking directly down on it.

In studying a population of Bittacomorpha clavipes in the Ozarks, Bowles (1998) commented that his population had "a non-seasonal, asynchronous, multivoltine life cycle."

The female lays eggs by dipping the abdominal tip into the water repeatedly, releasing a few eggs at a time. She lays as many as 350 eggs at a particular site.

Eggs hatch 4-5 days after they are laid, and the larva progresses through four instars. The larval period occupies 20-30 days, during which time the larva breathes by means of a retractable siphon.

The species passes about 9 or 10 days as a pupa.

Of this species, C. P. Alexander comments, "This species is one of the most conspicuous and interesting of all Nearctic Diptera. The first tarsomere of the legs is dilated and filled with tracheae, a characteristic which enables the flies to drift in the wind with their long legs extended to catch the breeze" (Alexander, in McAlpine, 1981).

Bowles reported Bittacomorpha clavipes as feeding exclusively on "fine particulate organic matter."

The family Ptychopteridae has only three genera worldwide. Among the important traits of the family are: 13 antennal segments in genus Ptychoptera and 18-19 in Bittacomorpha and Bittacomorphella; ocelli not present; wing with one anal vein reaching the margin.

Bittacomorpha clavipes, Phantom Crane Fly mating pair

Bittacomorpha clavipes, range map, Canada and US  

A note about our maps

Note that this is both the family page for Ptychopteridae and the species page for Bittacomorpha clavipes.