Crane flies

Crane fly on mango blossom
Tiger Crane Fly, Nephrotoma australasiae, on mango blossom

Tiger Crane Flies are common in my garden all year round, their staggering flight from leaf to leaf distinctive enough that they are rarely confused with wasps even at a distance. Close up, of course, their extraordinarily long legs are unmistakeable.

But I had never really thought about what they live on – and the fact that they are flies doesn’t tell me a thing, since flies (Diptera) have diversified to live on nearly anything you can think of (and a few things we would usually rather not think of, for that matter). I have seen one apparently drinking from a drop of water on a leaf (see below) and this one on our mango blossom does seem to be drinking nectar, but almost every time I see them they are either in flight or simply resting on a leaf.

Wikipedia to the rescue: ‘Adult crane flies feed on nectar or they do not feed at all; once they become adults, most crane fly species exist as adults only to mate and die.’ (That must explain why I so often see them mating. Here is a picture of a mating pair.)

Wikipedia continues: ‘Female abdomens contain eggs, and as a result appear swollen in comparison to those of males. The female abdomen also ends in a pointed ovipositor that may look somewhat like a stinger, but is in fact completely harmless. Their larvae, called “leatherjackets”, “leatherbacks”, or “leatherjacket slugs” because of the way they move, consume roots of turf grass and other vegetation, in some cases causing damage to plants.’

Cranefly drinking from water droplet on leaf
Cranefly drinking water from the surface of a leaf