Lafayette, LA (KPEL News) - You may have walked into your backyard and experienced a swarm of what we in Louisiana call mosquito hawks. They seem to be more prolific this year than ever before. Those long-legged flying bugs are everywhere, but do you have an infestation?

mosquito hawk
Tracy Wirtz

Mosquito hawks are actually called crane flies and they emerge in February and March each year, and they look like gigantic mosquitos. They lay their eggs in ground near water which makes south Louisiana very attractive. When the larvae, called leather jackets, hatch, they mature in the soil and eat your lawn and, sometimes, mosquito larvae.

South Louisiana folks have always believed the flying, adult version eats mosquitos, but they actually don't eat much other than nectar. Their adult lives are spent procreating and laying eggs before they die.

Crane flies don't bite or sting, and they aren't harmful to humans. They can be, well, pesky. These flying insects are drawn to light and may get into your house or car. (I had one as a passenger today!)

They may be annoying, but crane flies are an important part of the ecosystem. They provide food for other animals.

Because the larvae feed on your lawn, they may damage it. Here are two ways to determine if you have an infestation:

  1. Take warm, soapy water. Pour it over dead patches in your lawn. Any larvae living under the surface will come up because the mixture irritates them.
  2. Cut a dead patch of lawn out. Break it up and count the number of larvae you see. If you count more than 15 in a square foot area, you've got an infestation.

When they are swarming all around, you may have the urge to use pesticide to get rid of them. Weigh the pros and cons. You may eliminate them, but the pesticide may be harmful to your children or pets. So choose wisely.

The good news is that they should make their exit in March.

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Gallery Credit: Billy Jenkins

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