Common name, type of fly, species
|Tipulidae||Daddy long legs, crane flies, leather jackets|
|Psychodidae||Owl flies, moth flies|
|Ceratopogonidae||Biting midge, punkie|
|Mycetophilidae||Fungus gnats, fungus midges|
|Tabanidae||Haematopota pluvialis, horse fly, cleg|
|Drosophilidae||Fruit fly, vinegar fly|
|Calliphoridae||Blow fly, bluebottle, greenbottle|
The Lord in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
Aunt Betsy was fixing to change her will,
And would have left us out in the chill.
A Glossinia morsitans bit Aunt Betsy.
Tsk, tsk, tsetse.
The hand it quicker than the eye is,
But somewhat slower then the fly is.
Above is a fly belonging to the Tipulidae family, these are commonly known as daddy-long-legs or crane flies. There are around 15,000 species world wide, and 87 species in the British Isles. Fossilized Tipulids have been found dating from 120 million years ago.
The adults are fragile and slender ranging from 0.6 - 6 cm in body length. All adults have the same thin body shape, with narrow wings and long legs. The legs are shed easily if they are caught, but this does not seem to hamper the fly much as they cannot walk or run anyway. You can tell the sex of an adult by looking at the tip of the abdomen - females have a pointed tip, and males have a blunt tip. You will often see a female hopping around over lawns, wet ground and even water. She is laying eggs.
They have the most inelegant flight of all insects, with legs left dangling and flapping in every direction. Consequently the legs get trapped in spider's webs and vegetation. In order for the fly to escape it simply snaps off the trapped leg and carries on. The loss of 1, 2 or even 3 legs does not seem to inconvenience the daddy long legs who is quite content to manage as long as it has 3 legs.
Above is the ovipositor. The eggs are small, oval and usually black. Each female can lay several hundred in grassland, moist soil, bog and even over water. On land she pushes her ovipositor into the soil, but over water she places the eggs on, or just below the surface. This is often at the side of a pond among the aquatic plants.
Their antennae usually are fairly simple, see he drawing above. The adults have no ocelli (simple eyes).
The adults are short-lived and feed on nectar and other fluids, although some do not feed at all as adults. In some of the smaller species the adult males gather together in small swarms to dance in the late afternoon, these are sometimes called bobbing gnats.
Some adult females have no wings or only small vestigial wings. They can be found in the autumn waiting on walls for males to find them. Many species are nocturnal and are attracted to lights.
Tipulid larva (above) are commonly known as leatherjackets and live in the soil, rotting wood, bogs, other moist habitats, and some are aquatic. Fully grown they can reach up to 40 mm long.
They are a very important food source for some birds, and can occur in great numbers. They can cause damage to lawns and golf courses by feeding on the grass roots, and can be a pest where potatoes and oats are grown. They are usually grey or greyish-brown in colour.