Sunday, April 30, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Daddy Longlegs

Previously, I wrote about the crane fly as a leggy buggy. At that time, I made a passing remark about them being called daddy longlegs in the UK. (A humongous crane fly that landed on my door inspired me to photograph and write up about crane flies before writing this daddy longlegs article.)

Did you know that daddy longlegs can be three types of very long-legged bugs? "Why Are They Called Daddy Longlegs?" explains.
That name is often used to describe several different creatures. For example, it may be used to describe the long-legged crane fly, which is an insect, or long-legged cellar spiders, which are true spiders. Mostly, though, daddy longlegs is used to refer to Opiliones, which are an order of arachnids also known as harvestmen. … Harvestmen have one body section and two eyes, while most spiders have two body sections and eight eyes.

The following table lists some very basic differences among them.
large crane fly cellar spider harvestman
# legs
6
8
8
wings?
y
n
n
# eyes
2
8
2
silk/web spinner?
n
y
n
body sections
head, thorax, abcomen head/thorax (cephalothorax), abdomen single section

View my pixstrip for rudimentary drawings of the bugs; the text indicates very abbreviated animal hierarchy.

"Who's the daddy? Are daddy longlegs actually spiders? Are they poisonous and how do you get rid of them?" has a few good passages that describe these bugs.
While the common English insect commonly referred to as a daddy long-legs is in fact NOT a spider, there is actually also a type of spider that is sometimes also referred to as a daddy long-legs and another type of arachnid that is also known as a daddy long-legs.

Brits generally use the word daddy long-legs to refer to craneflies – long-legged winged insects which are not spiders.
The article has sections for bird's eye views (grin) about comparing and contrasting the three bugs:
  • What are the differences between craneflies and spiders?
  • What are the similarities between harvestmen and spiders?
  • What are the differences between harvestmen and spiders?
"Daddy Longlegs: Spiders & Other Critters" provides good overview differentiations also, including the following topics:
  • Harvestmen & crane flies
  • Cellar spiders
  • Taxonomy/classification for cellar spiders, harvestmen, and crane flies
Visit BugGuide's three sites for these leggy bugs, which include tabs for taxonomy, general information, images, and US map of states indicating habitat (Data).
More resources:

Leggy Bugs articles:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Crane Flies

In case you spot a leggy bug that looks like a huuuuuge mosquito (REALLY huge), chances are good that it’s a non-biting, non-stinging crane fly. Within a few months of moving to Central Texas many years ago, I spotted a humongous long-legged bug that I initially thought was a daddy longlegs. However, it had six legs. I then thought it might be a Texas-sized mosquito.

Don’t they make everything bigger in this state? I avoided it, as I was afraid it’d spear me deeply! Over the years, I heard that it wasn’t a mosquito.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a humongously long-legged bug on my back storm door. I was able to take only one picture before it flew off! I estimated it to be at least 4 inches top to bottom, about the size if I held my thumb and forefinger apart as a guide. This bug, as I've been told, is a crane fly, which, incidentally, is called a daddy longlegs in UK.

Actually, I had been planning to write about daddy longlegs, the 8-legged kind. I’ve queued it up for the next article.

On LinkedIn, I requested help with IDing the bug, posting a cropped and color/contrast modified image. Two people piped up and declared it a crane fly, and pasted a couple of links. Pinning down my exact specimen’s category became really difficult. Sooooo many members in the crane fly group! The Bug Guide search for “crane fly” yielded loads of hits.

From using BG and other bug links, I’ve settled that my bug is in Arthropods (Arthropoda) > Hexapods (Hexapoda) » Insects (Insecta) > Flies (Diptera) > "Nematocera" (Non-Brachycera) > Crane Flies (Tipulomorpha) > Large Crane Flies (Tipulidae) > Tipulinae > Tipula.

Because I was able to shoot only one picture, I wondered how to gauge the size. I decided to try to replicate the photo’s background and include a measuring stick. A few days of shooting, and I came up with the composite with a superimposed reduced-opacity measuring stick, then cropped it. I’d say the crane fly measured at least four inches leg tip to leg tip, as my upper image indicates. The following pixstrip shows the integration of two main images into one.

Most of the crane fly sites I’ve run across list body lengths in mm. Most of sites regarding even the giant ones state maybe less than an inch. I’d say my bug reaches an inch or so. Anyway, one site with loads of info is “The Crane Flies (Diptera:Tipulidae of Pennsylvania)”. The section about Tibula is way at the bottom.

I think my bug resembles the Tipula disjuncta crane fly by Gayle and Jeanell Strickland. Although my bug looks ghostly white, I’m not sure how the lighting, flash-on, and my distance might have affected how it photographed. And I wish it’d been in better focus.

Piqued further about crane flies? Besides visiting the Bug Guide and Pennsylvania Crane Fly sites, buzz around the following sites.

From Entomology Today's "Mosquito Hawk? Skeeter Eater? Giant Mosquito? No, No, and No"
They have a narrow body with two long and slender wings, as well as six stilt-like legs that can be twice as long as the body. Crane flies are diverse in wing pattern, color, and size.
From "The Crane Fly vs. The Mosquito! A Case of Mistaken Identity: A Crane Fly is not a Giant Mosquito!"
It is important to differentiate between these two bugs because mosquitoes transmit diseases like West Nile virus, encephalitis and Malaria, killing millions of people worldwide each year. Crane flies cannot bite and they do not carry diseases.
SHERDOG “crane fly and mosquito” comparison info with diagram

From Wikipedia's "Crane fly" site
Adult crane flies have very long legs and a long, thin abdomen. It is very easy to accidentally break off their delicate legs when catching crane flies. Their thin legs and abdomen may help them to escape from birds who try to eat them. Females have larger abdomens in comparison to the males. The female abdomen also ends in a pointed ovipositor that looks a bit like a stinger. Crane flies cannot sting.
Crane Flies - Infraorder Tipulomorpha
View lots of images, accompanied with their scientific category names (“often referred to as ‘large’ crane flies, with 4,269 recognized species”). Also visit links at http://cirrusimage.com/ for totally distracting macro images of North American insects and spiders and accompanying summaries.

Google image search for "crane flies"

Leggy Bugs articles:
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