Wednesday, September 28, 2011


One of the things that Dave and I have found interesting about England is the marked absence of insects. At least during the two months that we've been here -- in summer, a time when you'd think bugs would be at their worst -- we've seen very few. A couple of houseflies here and there, some bees on our lavender, and no crawling critters at all.

(Not that this is a bad thing.)

Windows in London don't even have screens, which shows just how insignificant insects are. Coming from Florida, where screens are mandatory and the air is always chock-full of flying things, and New York and New Jersey, where roaches, mosquitoes and gnats are commonplace, I find it a peculiar relief to live without window screens.

In the last several days, though, we have seen a few of these guys (above). They're spidery-legged flying insects an inch or two long. They look like really huge mosquitoes, and after doing some internet research I've learned they're called craneflies. They don't bite, and they're hardly exclusive to England -- they're common all over the world, and in fact I'm sure I've seen similar species in Florida.

If you look closely just beneath its wings, you can see two small rudders. These are called halteres and they help orient the insect during flight. Pretty cool, huh? Evolution is amazing.

Despite the halteres, though, craneflies fly in a sort of wobbly way, and they're very easy to catch. So last night, after taking this picture, I caught this guy and a companion and put them outside. Dave laughed at me and kept yelling "Kill them!" But that seemed like a rather extreme thing to do to a bug that doesn't even bite.

I later read that putting him outside -- he's almost certainly a male, based on the shape of his abdomen -- won't extend his life by much. By the time craneflies reach adulthood, they only live long enough to mate and die. He's pretty much at the end of his life span, but maybe I gave him a few more amorous opportunities.


  1. I love all non-biting bugs. Just yesterday I rescued a spider from the sink. Otherwise it would have seen the fate of the vegetable parings that were headed for the disposal. I trap them all and put them outside where hopefully they will do more than just mate and die!

  2. Living out his life span is better than being squashed. Does he mate just once?

  3. Well, when you get right down to it, pretty much ALL living things just mate and die, B!

    E, I have no idea, but I agree -- being squashed is no way to go.

  4. This is indeed the season for crane flies, we have loads of them! Where there are crane flies there are moles...don't know how that works in London! This is also spider season but they don't even bother with crane flies. They are desiccated brittle on-their-way-out tired discombobulated bumblers- usually they just crumple and die on the sills.

  5. we are inundated with something that looks just like these critters - people call them midgees or canadian soldiers ....every morning i seem to sweep up their little corpses

    i would love to live somewhere without screens... here on the northcoast too may flies and mosquitoes for that to be comfortable

    please email me your snail mail address - i picked up a postcard in dc to send!!


  6. Contrary to the crane fly, I hope you, I, and the spider do more than just mate and die! That sounds pretty bleak. But then that was the story of Charlotte's Web, right? :)