Giant flying bugs that look like mosquitoes are suddenly everywhere. Here's what they are

Weldon B. Johnson
Arizona Republic

March is the time of year when crane flies begin to emerge from grassy areas throughout the Phoenix area, and you're probably seeing them in your yard. Maybe they're getting in your house. Should you be worried?

Crane flies, also known as mosquito hawks, can grow to over 2 inches long with a 3-inch wingspan. A closer inspection would reveal lots of differences beyond size but, at a glance, a crane fly looks like a really big mosquito. (Although the name mosquito hawk is a misnomer. Crane flies don't eat mosquitoes.)

Crane flies might look like mosquitoes on steroids, but they’re actually harmless.

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Do crane flies bite or sting?

A crane fly, often mistaken for a giant mosquito, loiters in Ventura. The insects neither bite nor hunt mosquitoes.

Dawn Gouge, an entomologist and integrated pest management specialist with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, said crane flies are gentle giants.

“We do have some mosquitoes stirring, so sometimes people will get bitten by mosquitoes and they’ll see the most obvious thing, these huge mosquito-like creatures, and jump to the wrong conclusion,” Gouge said.

Crane flies don’t live long as adults, just a few days. 

“(Crane flies) don’t bite, they don’t sting, they don’t do much of anything as adults other than fly around, mate and the females lay eggs back in the turf.”

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What are crane flies attracted to?

The bugs are attracted to light, so people are likely to see them around entrances to homes and other well-lit areas.

Given the pleasant temperatures around here at this time of year, people tend to spend lots of time outdoors and are keeping doors and windows open. As a result, they’re noticing the crane flies indoors.

Gouge said if you see the bugs inside to remember that they are harmless.

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How to get rid of crane flies

There's no need to kill crane flies. They won't be around long enough to bother you much.

“They will die very quickly inside, normally in just a couple of days,” she said. “They’re super gentle. You can just scoop them up in your hands if you can catch them, and pop them outside."

Gouge said she wasn’t aware of the flies coming out in more abundant numbers than usual this spring but, to be honest, she couldn’t say that with any certainty.

“It’s not an animal that we track very carefully because they’re so harmless,” Gouge said. “It could be certain areas have just had favorable conditions.”