West Virginia Crane Flies
Tipulid Crane Flies are sometimes mistaken for mosquitos, though they are much, much larger (and they do not bite). Characteristics of the family include very long slender legs, slender bodies, and often a coloration that is yellow to brown.
Tipulidae is closely related to Limoniidae (and in fact some experts treat Limoniidae as a subfamily within Tipulidae). To see which traits these two families share and which traits are different, see our How to Tell Tipulidae from Limoniidae page.
As with so many fly families, larvae in Tipulidae require a moist environment to develop. This may be wet moss, a damp rotting log, moist soil, humid leaf litter, or an actual stream or pond. Each species has its own special larval requirements.
Adult Crane Flies in West Virginia are most often found in woodlands, often near a small stream. Other habitats include drier woods, forest edges, and sometimes meadows.
Crane Flies are found in most parts of the world, though Afrotropical and Australasian species are fewer in number. Fossil Crane flies date back some 240 million years, and in fact de Jong et al. state that "Present-day general distribution patterns of many higher taxa of [Crane Flies] probably have a Pangean or Gondwanan origin." The relative paucity of African species probably is related to Africa's "early separation from the remainder of Gondwana" (de Jong et al., 2007).
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Note that some Crane Flies are in other families such as Limoniidae
A special word of thanks to Dr. Chen Young, our mentor in all things Crane Fly. Dr. Young has worked extensively in West Virginia as well as in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and no one knows the fauna better than he. A number of individual species pages on our site mention him as the source for various behavioral observations, or taxonomic tips. Visit his Crane Flies of Pennsylvania site for more information about our regional fauna.
Insects of West Virginia