Crane Flies & Larvae Infestation in Gardens, Lawns – Control and Prevention

Garden Crane Flies (Tipula paludosa) belong to the Tipulidae family are found mainly on fresh loamy soils with closed turf, lawns, and gardens. These are not to be confused with the Marsh Crane Flies (Tipula oleracea) which are found in swamps and wetlands.

Garden Crane Flies don’t really sting, yet they may inflict substantial damage to lawns and gardens. More specifically, it is their larvae that may cause whole lawns to die.

Even while Garden Crane Flies are generally beneficial insects, a large population in the lawn can rapidly become a nuisance. In this post, you will learn how to identify the damage, the adults and larvae of Garden Crane Flies, as well as different eco-friendly methods to control these pests.

Damage Caused by Crane Flies Larvae

During the early autumn season, you will find the young crane fly larvae feeding on grassroots. On cloudy days or during the nights – you can also observe them devouring small plants. But, the actual horror appears in the spring season when masses of mature crane fly larvae uproot and feed on entire sections of your lawn.

Typical Signs of Crane Fly Larvae Infestation:

  • Reduced plant or grass growth
  • Brownish Yellow discoloration of leaves
  • Wilt like symptoms
  • Appearance of barren patches in the lawn
  • Increased Bird activity on the lawn (Birds feeding on these larvae)

You should not confuse Crane Fly infestation with fungal diseases. Leaves turn evenly brownish and not blotchy when infested by CraneFly. The turf appears to be drying out in spots.

If you’re not certain, a simple shovel prick on an afflicted spot would suffice. If you have a cranefly larval infestation, you will be able to see the larvae, which can number up to 600 per square meter in extreme situations.

How to Get Rid of Crane Flies Larvae Infestation

As soon as you see the first set of Crane flies in your yard, you start wondering – “How do I control Tipula CraneFly Larvae in the lawn?”

You can use chemical insecticides to ward off these pests, but the toxins can become harmful for other good insects as well. There are many other alternative methods to deal with the Tipula pests infesting your gardens.

Using Nematodes or Worms

Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes are parasites that can feed on the larvae of Garden Crane Flies and other pests. These microscopic nematodes, which are undetectable to the human eye, seek for and penetrate the larvae in the soil. They continue to multiply in that location, thus killing the Crane Fly larvae. This is accomplished by releasing a bacterium, which produces a toxin.

After just seven days of the first treatment, you can observe the results. If the old larva no longer provides food, the nematodes depart it in search of new hosts. This continues until they are unable to discover any more larvae and finally die.

Thus, using nematodes to control Crane Flies in lawns is a long-term, chemical-free control method that is safe for humans and the environment. This method has an efficiency of 80 to 90 percent.

Nematode control of Garden Crane Flies makes sense only between mid-September and mid-October because this is when the larvae are young and sensitive. The larvae acquire greater defense systems and become more resistant as they get older.

Insecticides for CraneFlies

It is generally not recommended to use insecticides for controlling Crane flies in gardens and lawns. Apart from these targeted pests, these synthetic chemicals frequently have an adverse effect on other, beneficial insects too. They also have a harmful effect on humans and pets.

Luckily, you don’t really have to use insecticides to control Garden Crane Fly infestation because there are plenty of safe alternative solutions.

Calcium Cyanamide

The best results with using calcium cyanamide against Tipula Crane-fly are obtained when the fertilizer is given in early spring, i.e. around March. The younger Crane fly larvae are more sensitive to calcium cyanamide compared to their mature counterparts.

The soil temperature should already be between 3 to 8 degrees Celsius. On wet days, apply 30 to 40 grams of fertilizer per square meter to obtain an efficiency of 40 to 60%.

Natural Home Remedies

You can also use mechanical means to eradicate the larvae, such as rolling the grass when the larvae are in the early stages of development. Lawn  Aerator rollers with spikes are ideal for this application.

Scarifying not only harms the larvae, but it also harms the turf. As a result, scarifying should be done in combination with reseeding.

On small areas, a baiting mixture of ten parts moist wheat bran with one part sugar can be used to spread coasters. Tipula larvae on the grass are greatly attracted to this and leave the ground to move to the coasters. They can then be picked up in the early hours. Black foil or plastic shreds provide a similar effect.

Finally, once the first Crane Flies appear in August, you may cover tiny lawns with lawn fabric. This stops these flies from laying eggs in the grassy patches on your lawn. It is critical that the garden fabric be as light and permeable to water and air as possible in order to cause the least amount of harm to the lawn grass and other small plants.

Try moving the fabric only while mowing the lawn. The surviving adult CraneFlies die towards the middle of September, and then you can safely remove the lawn fabric.

Prevent Crane Fly Infestation

Some of the above-mentioned techniques also help to avoid Crane Fly infestations. Covering the lawn with mulch, plastic sheets, fleece, or cardboard, for example, can hinder the egg-laying process. Rolling or scarifying on a regular basis also helps to keep them in check.

Furthermore, encouraging predators of Crane Flies helps in reducing their infestation in your lawn. Many birds, like blackbirds and starlings, fall under this category. In a separate post, we outlined how you may make your garden truly bird-friendly.

A beautiful, lush green lawn requires a significant amount of upkeep. Because not only pests but also improper fertilizer or mowing may harm the lawn. As a result, it is essential to understand what lawn maintenance tasks must be completed throughout the year and what must be avoided.

Basic Information About CraneFlies

Before you think about dealing with the cranefly larvae infestation in your garden, it is very important to understand how you can recognize these pests. Learning about their life cycle will help in eradicating these larvae when they are young.

Identifying Garden Crane Fly

Lawn Crane Flies are quite easy to identify and differentiate from other insects or their larvae.

Adult Lawn Crane Flies can grow up to 2.5 cm long and have a wingspan of 3 to 4 centimeters. Tipula Paludosa’s body is monochromatic grey-brown and elongated. Its legs are very long and slender, and its wings are transparent and unmarked. If you look attentively at a specimen, you’ll see a V-shaped seam on the rear and the lack of dot eyes in between the compound eyes.

Garden craneflies mouthparts, like those of all gnat species, are not intended to sting. Adults, on the other hand, feed on the water as well as nectar. As a result, they are neither hazardous to people, nor do adult Turf Crane Flies harm the lawn.

Life Cycle

Around mid-August, the adults emerge from the pupae stage. Lawn Crane Flies begin mating and depositing eggs immediately due to their short lifetime. Females are only found near larval environments since they have a limited flying capacity and can only fly a maximum of up to five meters at a time.

A female lays around 300 to 500 eggs before dying. After approximately 11 to 15 days, the first larvae hatch. Before pupation, a total of four phases are passed through, two of which are still in autumn.

The third larval phase happens deeper in the soil, allowing it to overwinter below the frost line. Up to 50% of Tipula Paludosa larvae might perish in harsh winters. But, if the winters are mild then most of these larvae survive. The development of the remaining two larval stages proceeds throughout the spring. This is when the most damage to lawns is done, because the larvae may grow to be up to 4 cm long at this stage and are therefore true gluttons.

Crane Fly larvae attain their greatest size around mid-May. Then they travel deeper into the soil, resting below the soil surface for around six weeks until pupating and hatching as adult Crane Flies in mid-August.

Do Crane Flies bite humans?

No, Adult Crane flies do not bite humans. They only feed on water and nectar.

Is Crane Fly harmful to Gardens and Lawns?

Adult Crane Flies are not harmful to lawns. However, their larvae is can cause damage to grass turfs and small plants. Hence, they have to be identified and controlled before they can cause serious lawn damage.