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A Study in Crane Fly

It’s that time o’ year again. When the weather becomes mild, the kitty loves her quality porch time, but she refuses to have it with the door closed. So we stick a stick of the proper length in the sliding door track, and leave a kitty-sized opening for her to exploit. Alas, kitty-sized openings are also large enough for insects of all sorts to exploit, and the only thing that keeps us from being overrun by every creepy-crawly in the city is the fact we live on the third floor. We host mostly flying fellows. And crane flies are among the first to arrive.

Mind, I lost my shit when I saw one for the first time: it looked like the largest mosquito in creation to me, and I’m not companionable with mosquitoes. Then I discovered they’re perfectly harmless. And they’re generally quite polite. The like to hang about on a wall for a few days until they pop off. They cause no trouble, and since I’m not responsible for keeping the lawn green and lovely, and have no concerns over the quality of cricket pitches, I don’t consider them pests. After a bit, I even began to notice their beauty.

Haven’t you?

Let one of them hang about on the vent hood above the stove and show you.

Image is a crane fly dangling from the edge of a stove vent hood, backlit by the hood light.

Crane fly kitchen companion.

See the light shining through its transparent wings, the patterns of its veins traced out splendidly? Just do ignore that grim-looking stuff on the end of its body – harmless to humans, that. I’m pretty sure it’s just its junk.

Have a look at the light through its body:

Image is a detail of the upper portions of the crane fly. The backlight makes its body appear a transluscent amber.

Transparency is useful in both governments and crane flies.

I can tell you now from experience, it’s much more fun watching a crane fly hang out on your stove’s vent hood and be all pretty in the back lighting than it is to merely wait for your water to boil. My little cooking companion stuck round until the steam reached its haven, then it went off elsewhere. Happily for it, the kitty is far too elderly to care about chasing bugs anymore (and she never plumped for that source of protein anyway). I’m not sure if it spent its short earthly span indoors, or if it made its way outside again, but hopefully it was the arthropod version of content throughout.

Who are your favorite critters to share your abode with? Any creepy-crawlies that don’t creep you out?

Comments

  1. says

    Small toad that’s been hanging out in front of my door evenings and nights. I pet it and it leans into my finger if it’s cooler out. When it’s warmer, toad hops an inch over sometimes.

    What gets indoors has varied over the years. Not too many insects around this year, and I have an un-screened window open in a room with a light on in it all night. Weird spring and summer all around really, including strange behavior from some of my plant friends as well.

  2. anne mariehovgaard says

    My cats love them. They’ve been catching and eating them since they were kittens (they’re brothers). A fluffy little kitten happily chewing, with six long legs sticking out of its mouth, is a memorable sight.

  3. petemoulton says

    An adult antlion once visited me. I took a number of photographs of it, which I now use in the dragonfly presentations I give because antlions superficially resemble damselflies. No insects were harmed during the process, and afterward I escorted the antlion to a safe outdoor perch.

  4. says

    I don’t like earwigs or maggots. Houseflies I wouldn’t mind except for the buzzing at the windows is annoying. Ants, mosquitoes, flour/grain beetles, cockroaches (we had them around when I was in Singapore; haven’t seen any here in easternish Ontario), and fruitflies I only mind because they’re pests not because they’re creepy. The rest I’m pretty much okay with. We had a “bad” year for house centipedes last year and I’ve seen a couple this year too. To me they look like pretty eyelashes and I’d be inclined to leave them be (especially since they also eat other bugs that aren’t so nice). I love spiders and when I can, I take care to preserve them. But my mother hates crawlies and flies of just about any kind so outside they go when she sees them and I’m around to catch and release.

  5. says

    I… can’t. Well… ladybugs don’t bother me, but that’s it. My only real creepy-crawly phobia is spiders (I’m extremely arachnophobic… like… I’ll freak out at the site of a cobweb level of arachnophobic… and if I walk into a web, I will literally feel spiders crawling on me for weeks and have nightmares for a few days at least… two weeks ago I had a very common and totally harmless spider crawl across my leg; I ended up sleeping over a friend’s house for two nights and then slept on the couch at my place because I couldn’t go back into my room… and yeah, I let some exterminators loose in there to play around), but bugs and such, for the most part, do not get on well with me… at all.

  6. Trebuchet says

    @7: That’s awesome. I never heard of those before. You’ve provided me with my learning experience for the day.

    I can do without any arthropods in the house, thank you very much. That pretty much includes crabs and lobsters, since I don’t care for them all that much. Every once in a while our vacation house has a plague of flies (usually after a mouse or three has died in the crawl space), but the worst of all is the sugar ants. The really tiny ones that descend in hordes if you leave the wrong stuff out. I once poured syrup onto my pancakes and discovered it was full of ant corpses. Lovely.

    Our cats don’t chase or eat bugs. They just stare at them, so we know they’re there.

    Great pix, Dana!

  7. says

    I have a bunch of critters in my house/yard. Mostly a herd of deer and a flock of turkeys, which get pretty close to the house now that my dogs have passed away. I used to have an absolutely adorable baby porcupine (aka: “the porchupine”) who lived on my porch and occasionally ate the dogs’ leftovers, ’till he grew up and moved on.
    Squee Warning: http://www.ranum.com/linkedimages/porchupine.jpg

    Then there’s Basement Snake, who I have recently renamed Router Snake. Basement Snake lives under my freezer chest and keeps the basement mouse-free for me. I consider this a good deal, and so does Basement Snake. As he has grown, BS has decided that my Cisco router/T1 modem are a nice warm place to molt, so I can track BS’ growth by the shed skins. In truth BS may be BS2.0 or maybe even 3.0 because the first snake I identified as BS was not a black rat, whereas the skins cast on the router appear to be a black rat. This is BS 1.0 mugging for the camera:
    http://www.ranum.com/linkedimages/basement%20snake.jpg

    One year I had a baby copperhead, who was disinvited from the house (I left him in my gravel pile, and it now appears to have a pretty good population of copperheads)
    Baby snakes! http://www.ranum.com/linkedimages/baby%20copperhead.jpg

    Disclaimer: I am pretty sure porchupine was a porcupine. I am not so good at identifying snakes. So it’s possible that Basement Snake is A Bitter Liberal Viper or some other species.

  8. Trebuchet says

    Marcus: Porchupine is adorable. Even for such a dumb critter. You can have the snakes, however. You can also have the gol-dang raccoons we get outside. One even had babies in our floor.

  9. says

    Even for such a dumb critter

    Porchupine’s full-grown uncle came out into the yard, once, and I pursued him with my camera. What followed was an OJ Simpson-style slow pursuit until the porcupine adopted a brilliant strategy of climbing into a bush. A very small bush. Once he got to the top, I had a great photo-op while porky glared about in a fascinating combination of stupid, menacing, and myopic. One of the things that really amazed me is how narrow their heads are. 1) there is minimal room for brains 2) clearly they have impressive leverage behind their ugly yellow teeth. When I finally left him alone it took him about an hour to figure out how to get down from the 3′ tall bush.

  10. Trebuchet says

    When you’re defended by a mass of nasty spines, brains don’t need to evolve! But when you’re so slow the only prey you can catch is tree bark, you really need to develop strong jaw muscles and ugly yellow teeth.

  11. Space Monster says

    Soon after I got my kitty a crane fly got into the house and was bumping around the top of a wall. I held up my kitty to show it to her (‘Look baby! A crane fly!’) and faster than a blink her little paws snapped out, grabbed the crane fly, and stuffed it into her mouth.

    I used to get really bothered by houseflies buzzing around, but I no longer have that problem. Someone is very, very good about removing the annoyance.

  12. Lithified Detritus says

    Trebuchet @ 13

    I was sort of blundering towards a similar response, but you put it better than I would have. When I took ecology many years ago, we were taught that a predator needs to be at least 10% smarter than its prey. Porkies need to be 10% smarter than tree bark.

  13. says

    I live happily with earwigs and woodbugs (Armadillidiidae) and fruit flies, when I can persuade them to drop by. (The ff are mostly vacationing in safer places since I started feeding them to my spiders.) Weevils and caterpillars are fine; so are moths. But I draw the line (and the knife) at slugs. They slime up my outside furniture and eat my best plants. Not good.

    Crane flies and big bald-faced hornets are beautiful, but I shoo them outside because they’re a nuisance.

    Spiders, though; spiders are the best house guests; so smart and elegant and resourceful!

  14. says

    The photo I linked of porchupine was funny – when I got right up on him with the camera he reared up and pulled he little handsies into little fistses and chuttered at me most menacingly, then started leaning from one side to the other like a boxer looking around his fists. It took me a second to realize he was moving his head to try to triangulate and figure out how far away I was.

    My first run-in with a full-grown porky out here was a large adult who the dogs cornered in the edge of an old stone foundation; there was a lot of barking. I took a 2×4 and nudged him in the butt and suddenly >>WHAM<< he spun like a machine and whalloped the 2×4, leaving several big quills stuck into the pine. You guys are right: they don't need brains. They do pretty good as they are.

    The porkys seem to have a "pick up spot" down on the road about a half mile from my place. Unfortunately they seem to like to mate in the road. Sometimes this does not work well for them.

    I also have a skunk, named "skunkula" who is the biggest flippin' skunk I've ever seen. I've caught glimpses of him through binoculars across the fields. And, oh, yeah, a bobcat. I actually managed to get a long focal length shot of him one winter, which was super extra wonderful cool. And one summer I found cat paw-prints about 4" across, in some of the mud by the side of my cornfield.

  15. Trebuchet says

    @15, Susannah:

    I live happily with earwigs…

    And that’s about as far as I got. Of all insects..make that arthropods…no, make that living things on planet Earth, earwigs creep me out the most. Perhaps even more than Weeping Angels.

  16. lochaber says

    Earlier this year I found one of those big escargot-snails sitting in a window box. Which I found a bit odd, as I’m not on the ground floor. I took to dropping vegetable bits of takeout in the window box every now and then (it really liked those bean-sprout things that come with pho). Seemed fairly content in the window box for a couple months, and then one day it just wasn’t there. No idea if it went for a walk, or if some local crow or gull thought it would make a good meal.

    Marcus Ranum> nice pic, I’ve heard they can do some damage gnawing on everything though. I’ve also heard they are good survival food in that they don’t run away (or at least, not fast enough to matter).
    I grew up in PA, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copperhead. Although, I seen people attack/kill almost every other type of local snake, claiming it was a copperhead. I lived in a pretty ignorant, rural community. also a bit inbred.

    Skunks scare me. sure, they can be kinda funny to watch, but I’d rather run across almost any other critter while camping or drunkenly making my way home after the bars close.

  17. bryanfeir says

    Ahh, crane flies. My family’s place out on Vancouver Island once had a bad infestation of crane flies. I learned three things back then:
    – Crane fly larvae are called leatherjackets because of their very tough skin.
    – Starlings (themselves a bit of a pest) apparently love to eat leatherjackets. So do other birds.
    – Starlings have such an inefficient digestive system that the leatherjackets would sometimes survive being eaten, resulting in them hitching a ride wherever the starlings went. This was probably how they got to our place to start with, by crawling out of starling droppings.