Welcome back to our third edition of Bug Blogs, celebrating Science Odyssey by showcasing benthic macroinvertebrates (bugs!) that we often find during our local stream studies program, Changing Currents.
Daddy Long-Legs or Mosquito Eater?
Have you ever seen a daddy long-legs in your house or outside on a warm autumn day? If you said yes, then you’ve seen a crane fly! Crane flies are the topic of this installment of Bug Blog. These spider-like flying insects are often referred to as daddy long-legs as adults - a picture of one can be seen below. If you’ve seen these bugs fly, you know that they are quite terrible at it, swaying and wobbling in the air. You may have also heard that these daddy long-legs eat mosquitoes; however, they are incapable of eating other insects as adults. Similar to stoneflies, crane flies have only one purpose as adults - to mate, dying soon afterwards. Crane flies pass through the four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
What do Crane Flies Look Like?
At their larval stage they are found in the benthic environment of aquatic habitats. The larval stage can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Crane fly larvae are quite simple with a segmented body resembling worms. Many students were struck by the slimy and leathery texture of a large crane fly we collected during a recent Changing Currents study! They may have small pairs of feet-like spots on their body and have distinct hairy projections at the end of their bodies which they use to breathe. Crane fly larvae move similar to worms and can swish and shake.
Source: CAM Jr.-Sr. High School/BGSD.
Crane Fly Ecology
Crane fly larvae play an important role in the stream ecosystem by breaking down leaves and other fallen debris into smaller, more manageable pieces for other organisms to eat. Crane flies have a low tolerance for nutrient polluted waters. Although they are sometimes considered pests, crane fly larva in water bodies is a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Bug Blog where we’ll be learning about scuds!
Bug Blog is EcoSpark’s blog series in celebration of Science Odyssey, a ten-day campaign celebrating Canadian achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with hundreds of science-based outreach events across Canada for all ages. Each day of Science Odyssey (May 12-21), we will be exploring a different Benthic Macroinvertebrate (BMI), small spineless organisms that live at the bottom of waterways. These are creatures we come across all the time in EcoSpark’s Changing Currents program, where we carry out stream studies with schools around the GTA by collecting BMIs to learn about local water quality.
EcoSpark's Bug Blogs would not be possible without the support from our generous sponsor, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience Program.