GardenLine Profiles

GardenLine Profiles

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‘Mosquito hawks’ are not. And not gargantuan mosquitoes, either

The insects widely known as “mosquito hawks” aren’t. And their reputation is a hoax.

I’m covering them here because we have been seeing a major spike in mosquito outbreaks.

Photo: Getty Images

First, I have to dispel the myth that Tropical Storm Bill helped spawn mutant-sized mosquitoes. There are no gargantuan or Frankenstein-like mosquitoes on the loose.

Those long-legged things we see flying around, bumping here and there, are actually adult crane flies. And as for them eating mosquitoes, that myth has duped a many Houstonians for years.

Now, there really is a mosquito hawk, but it is just an ordinary-looking mosquito that kills the larvae of other mosquitoes.

You’ll know you’ve seen a crane fly when it flaps around, bouncing like a helium balloon off walls and ceilings. They’re referred to as crane flies due to their resemblance to the birds with long legs and slow flight.

Many of us tolerate these gentle giants and practice a “catch and release” policy, gently picking them up to avoid snapping off any appendages and setting them free outside. Others detest them for tickling shoulders, flying into faces, and cluttering up homes with bits and pieces of themselves. If your kids like to save them, don’t bust the mosquito-killing myth. I haven’t told my kids the truth yet because I like seeing their compassionate side.

The crane fly doesn’t eat mosquitoes or much of anything else. Maybe, like the Loch Ness Monster or Sasquatch, we have wanted to believe this fragile, clumsy, goofy insect was really able to slay its annoying cousin. Sad to report, it cannot.

So, do we need to control these flies, and if so, how? In my opinion, you don’t need to do anything because, like their moth and June bug compatriots, they have a very short life span and are harmless to humans. They are not a lab-experiment gone wrong - just flies attracted to light that can neither bite, draw blood or sting.

They’re also meals for birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and other insects. Because fish, especially trout, love them, they’re good bait and, I suspect, ideal models for artificial lures. I’m guessing about that last part – we should probably ask our outdoor specialist Doug Pike if it’s true.


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