Tipula abdominalis

Giant Crane Fly


Family: Tipulidae

Subfamily: Tipulinae

Subgenus: Nippotipula

Length: 34-40 mm; females are a little larger than males


Larvae live in streams; adults fly twice per year in woodlands. The first brood is on the wing in May and June, while a second flies in August and September.

Males and females are similar; the photo at below left is a female, while the other photos are of a male. In lateral view, both sexes have a yellow body with a dark line along each side. The posterior end of the abdomen is all-dark.

The overall range of this species is wide, from Newfoundland and Ontario west to Kansas, and south to Alabama and Florida.

The larvae of Tipula abdominalis play an important role in forest ecosystems, feeding primarily on dead leaves that fall into streams—a poor nutrition source for most insects. For the leaves to furnish adequate nutrition for T. abdominalis larvae, they must be "conditioned" by fungi and bacteria first (Lawson et al., 1984).

Dr. Chen Young notes that these larvae are both large (50-60 mm) and common, and humans use them for fishing bait.

For those looking for these larvae, Dr. Jon K. Gelhaus suggests looking in wooded streams under rocks, in the streams' leaf drift, "or even among mats of watercress." Intermittent as well as permanent streams can boast populations of Tipula abdominalis.

Dorsal view of Tipula Abdominalis, Crane Fly, Tipulidae

  Head of Tipula abdominalis, family Tipulidae

Insects of West Virginia