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I found this interesting and somewhat menacing insect on my back porch recently where it must have been attracted by the lights. It was scary but after I took a closer look and I realized that it is not a huge mutant mosquito bent on sucking my blood, but only a harmless crane fly (Tipulid).
Flies have three pairs of legs and one pair of wings, The second pair of wings is replaced by a set of peculiar organs termed halteres. They are a tiny ball at the end of a filament which beats in opposition to the wings and apparently provides balance or stabilizing control when in flight. When I saw these organs I realized that this was not a wasp. Of course mosquitoes are also in the fly group (Diptera) but they are much smaller and shaped differently.
Crane flies have a maggot-like larva which may live in aquatic habitats or soil and generally feed on fungi, roots, decaying organic matter, or some are predatory. The adults may feed on nectar or but generally not at all and die after mating. They are found around the world and may be encountered almost anywhere.
So a little bit of knowledge of entomology can relieve any apprehension you may have on encountering this interesting if somewhat scary looking giant fly. Isn't it wonderful that the world is filled with such strange creatures that exist completely beyond our own knowledge and control?
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL, and Galax, VA