There are hundreds of species of crane flies in North America, but nearly all look like giant mosquitoes. They have slender bodies; very long legs; and one pair of wings that are often held out at a 45-degree angle to the body. Just behind the wings, attached to the body, are two small, antennae-like appendages called halteres. These function like gyroscopes during the crane fly’s weak and wavering flights. The mouthparts look like a snout.
Female crane flies have thicker abdomens, which have a pointed (and harmless) tip for egg-depositing. Males have pincerlike “claspers” at the tip of the abdomen.
Larvae are essentially tan or gray “grubs”: segmented caterpillars with a definite head and with tiny, fleshy projections at the hind end.
Adult crane flies can be distinguished from mosquitoes by their lack of a piercing, tubelike mouth, a lack of scales on the wing veins and a V-shaped groove on the thorax (the body part behind the head, from which the wings emerge).