Cranefly (Tipula paludosa)

Tipula paludosa on grass seed head
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Cranefly fact file

Cranefly description

GenusTipula (1)

This species of invertebrates_freshwater, or daddy-long-legs is one of the most common craneflies in Britain (1). The larvae, known as 'leatherjackets' are notorious pests of grass and agricultural crops, and are so called because they have a tough, leathery outer layer. The adults are familiar insects, often entering houses towards the end of summer (3); they have a slender, pale brown body, and large greyish wings with a brown front margin (1). The prominent dangling legs have earned the species the common name 'cranefly', as they are reminiscent of cranes, long-legged birds (3). Like all flies, this species has one pair of true membranous wings, the second pair of wings are modified drumstick-like appendages known as 'halteres', which aid in balancing (4).

Also known as
Length: 16 mm (2)

Cranefly biology

Adult craneflies emerge between June and September, although in Britain peak emergence occurs from mid-August to mid-September. Mating occurs shortly after emergence and females lay one batch of eggs amongst grass and other vegetation (5). Around 14 days later, the larvae hatch; they feed on the bases of plant stems and roots, and are often serious pests. They spend the winter in the soil in the third larval stage or 'instar'; they can continue to be active in temperatures as low as 5°C, but as temperatures warm up in spring they become increasingly active. Larvae reach 3-4 cm in length, and head for the surface to pupate in summer. This crane fly remains in the pupal stage for two weeks before emerging (5).


Cranefly range

Common and widespread throughout Britain (1) and northern Europe, this species has been introduced to northwestern USA, where it is a serious pest (5).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Cranefly habitat

Larvae occur in garden lawns, bowling greens, golf courses and agricultural grasslands, and this species typically avoids very dry or wet areas (1).


Cranefly status

Very common and widespread (1).


Cranefly threats

This species is not threatened.


Cranefly conservation

Not relevant.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more on invertebrates see Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Stage in an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
The process of forming a pupa, the stage in an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (March 2003):
  2. Sterry, P. (1997) Collins Complete British Wildlife Photoguide. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., London.
  3. Buczacki, S (2002) Fauna Britannica. Hamlyn, London.
  4. O'Toole, C (2002) The new encyclopedia of insects and their allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Blackshaw, R.P. & Coll, C. (1999) Economically important leatherjackets of grassland and cereals: biology, impact and control. Integrated Pest Management Reviews4: 143-160.

Image credit

Tipula paludosa on grass seed head  
Tipula paludosa on grass seed head

© David Boag /

Getty Images
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