This is a native of Europe that found its way into the Pacific Northwest around 1955. It now is established in Washington, some of northwestern Oregon, and into British Columbia, with a possible presence in northern California.
This imported species is somewhat unique for its family, as it is the only crane fly that causes serious damage to plants. Most species restrict their feeding to decaying plant materials, but the ECF feeds on turf, pasture grasses, and even some ornamental plants and vegetables. While it resembles an enormous mosquito the adult is incapable of biting or causing any other harm to humans. Children and adults often refer to them as “mosquito eaters”, but they do not prey on mosquitoes and most crane fly adults do not feed. The adults of the ECF emerge in mid to late summer and deposit eggs on the grass. The larvae then feed on the root crowns in late summer to fall, overwinter as the larva, and continue to feed and develop in the spring. Most of the feeding is in the thatch or below soil level but occasionally emerge at night to feed on foliage. Much of the turf damage is noticed in early spring and feeding by the larvae ends around mid-May.
The larvae are typical of crane fly larvae, about 1 inch long when mature and a dark greenish-brown color. They have no legs. Adults also have the typical crane fly appearance of very long, thin legs, a narrow and elongated abdomen, and 1 pair of long, widened wings. The wings are clear and very light brown but the leading edge is a darker brown stripe from end to end. The adult is about 1 inch long and with a wingspan of nearly 1.5 inches.
Characteristicts Important to Control:
The use of labeled insecticides will control the larvae if applied during early April when the larvae are actively feeding but before noticeable damage has occurred. Another application may be applied during early fall when the immature larvae are still feeding but prior to their entering an overwintering period.