Craneflies and leatherjackets – the new pest in town

Leather Jacket (larvae), Crane Fly (adult)Lawns in the Greater Toronto Area have typically been harassed by chinch bugs and white grubs for a long time. However in the last several years, a new invasive pest has appeared and it is becoming more common.

Craneflies (Tipula paludosa, Tipula oleracea) are large, long-legged flying insects, sometimes called ‘mosquito hawks’ because of their similarity in shape to the blood-drinkers, and the mistaken idea that craneflies eat mosquitoes. Craneflies have no mouth parts, and live as adults just long enough to breed. Their larvae are known as Leatherjackets.

It is the young larva, known as a leatherjacket, that does all the damage. Leatherjackets are grey-brown and grow to between one half and three cm. Leatherjackets are easily differentiated from white grubs. Leatherjackets have no visible head, are brown, live just above the soil, and do not usually curl up into a C-shape. The leather jackets chew on the crown of the grass plant, which is where the blade grows from. The grass blade topples over and dies like a lumbered tree, and the leatherjacket moves on to the next grass plant. With enough of them in your lawn, you end up with large dead patches resembling ‘stubble’.

The timing of adult Cranefly activity can vary based on weather each year; from the beginning of June through the end of August, and can often be seen through September and early October. They are not good fliers, and you will often see them rising from the lawn as you mow it or near outdoor lights after dark, or peering through your windows!
A few here and there is not a concern, but if you are finding them swarming around, call a professional. They are breeding and will soon be infesting your lawn with hundreds or thousands of leatherjackets. LawnSavers has an effective treatment for managing leatherjackets that will minimize any damage.

Rain forces leatherjackets out of the soil and often washes them off to hard surfaces like this roadside.

How bad can they get?

These leatherjackets washed out of a lawn after a heavy rainfall.  A healthy lawn can withstand up to 20 leatherjackets per square foot, but populations can explode quickly and create devastating numbers before you even know it!   LawnSavers can help manage populations of Leatherjackets with our Leathjacket Control service in Spring or early Fall has the correct product to control these larvae for as low as $119 for lawns up to 2000 square feet.

If you are seeing Craneflies, Applications should be scheduled as soon as possible to ensure proper application timing in early fall, and again in the Spring for best results!

We can also assist you with: ticks, mosquitos, and gypsy moths.