Craneflies and leatherjackets – the new pest in town

Lawns in the Greater Toronto Area have been harassed by chinch bugs and white grubs for a long time. In the last few years though, a new pest has appeared and it is becoming more common.

Adult cranefly and immature leatherjackets

Kyle holds an adult cranefly and some pupating leatherjackets

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.

It is the young larva, known as leatherjackets, that do all the eating. 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 of ‘stubble’.

Adult craneflies are active from the beginning of June through the end of August. 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. 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

close up of leatherjackets on the road

How bad can they get?These leatherjackets washed out of a lawn after a heavy rainfall.  A healthy lawn can withstand at least 20 leatherjackets per square foot, but populations can explode quickly and create devastating numbers before you even know it!  Nematodes used for Grub management will NOT control leatherjackets.  Nematodes are always species specific in their targeting.  LawnSavers has the correct strain of Nematodes to control these larvae.  Applications should be scheduled by the middle of October for best results!

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  • Coping with Covid Update: (updated 06/01/20)

    Hi Everyone, 

    I’m happy to share some good news during these crazy times. LawnSavers is servicing lawns in all areas as lawn care and pest control services that provide for lawn health are officially on the Provincial list of essential services due to the fact we can provide this service safely and with no personal contact!

    We do not expect any delay in our regular timing of applications (except from the brief wintry weather in May).  We put together an easy to read lawn care service timeline that you can use to know when to expect us for each scheduled service in your package. 

    I want to reassure you that in every decision we make around COVID-19, our number one priority remains the health and safety of our employees and customers.  Safety and honesty are our two most important core values.  We will continue to follow strict safety guidelines that ensure “zero touch”.  We will not let our guard down on exercising our safety protocols!

    Our office is open but with less staff in order to maintain safety protocols like social distancing.   Please note our phones are experiencing a high volume of calls and we know how much everyone hates being left on hold, so please leave us a message or email us at  and we will get back to you in less than 24 hours.
    Please be patient with us, we will get back to you as fast as possible.
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    Thank you all for your understanding and patience during these challenging times. Our team works hard, so if you are met with our exceptional service from our technicians or office team members- please give them a thumbs up to make them smile or let me know through a quick email to

    We thank you for supporting our local, family-owned business of 30 years.
     genuinely appreciate each and every one of you and promise that we will do our part to ensure our mutual safety and be on your lawn as soon as possible.  

    Thank you in advance,
    Kyle Tobin
    Chief Environmental Officer