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Crane Fly Identification 

By Eric LaGasa,
Washington State Department of Agriculture

A Graphic Guide for Identification of Adult European Craneflies;

Tipula paludosa and T. oleracea (Diptera:Tipulidae)

The cranefly known as the European cranefly in the Pacific Northwest, Tipula paludosa Meigan, is an introduced exotic pest first found in the region in 1965 in British Columbia, Canada. Since then, it has gradually spread into Washington State and parts of Western Oregon and has become the most serious economic pest of lawns, pastures and hayfields in the northwest.

female T. Oleracea In 1998, a second, closely related cranefly species from Europe was found in the Pacific Northwest. The new species, Tipula oleracea L., is almost identical in appearance to T. paludosa and similar biologically. It is also considered a serious pest of turf and other plants in its native Europe. However, T. oleracea can complete two generations per year (European cranefly has one) and adult T. oleracea emerge in the spring as well as the fall, when most European craneflies emerge.

Between 1998 and 1999, Tipula oleracea was found in a few locations in Western British Columbia, Western Washington, and Western Oregon, but the extent of the currently infested area is not known. The following graphics and information have been developed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to help future efforts to delimit the distribution of T. oleracea in North America.

As mentioned above, Tipula paludosa and T. oleracea are extremely similar species, but they may be separated by the characters presented below. In general appearance, they are large craneflies with grayish-brown bodies. Male craneflies may have a wingspan from 1¼ to 1½ inches. Females are larger, with a wingspan of 1½ to 2 inches.

Click any image to enlarge.
male T. paludosafemale T. oleracea

Wing Coloration Characteristics

The wings are slightly cloudy, with a darker area and a white stripe along the leading edge - visible in the following pictures against dark and light backgrounds.
T. oleracea wing on white backgroundT. oleracea wing on black background
Other than the leading edge stripes, there are no pigmented areas on the veins or cross-veins and no other spots or "pictures" in the wings.

Eye Separation Characteristics

A very clear character for distinguishing the two species apart is the separation of the compound eyes on the ventral surface (underside) of the head, as shown in the following figures. This character can be used to distinguish both males and females of the two species.
(Character from Brodo, 1994)

T. oleracea ventral eye space

The space between the eyes of T. oleracea is narrow, only as wide as the width of the base segments of the antenna.

T. paludosa ventral eye space

The eye separation on T. paludosa is much wider, usually several times the width of the antenna.

Wing Length Characteristics

A different character to separate the species, which only applies to females, is the length of the wings. Female T. oleracea wings are clearly longer than the abdomen, as seen to the right. The wings of female T. paludosa are shorter than the abdomen.

Additional pictures of similar (native) crane fly species for comparison to T. paludosa and T. oleracea, and a list of pertinent literature and other resources can be found on the Native Crane Flies page.

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