Turfgrass-Crane fly

Common crane fly (Tipula oleracea)
European crane fly (Tipula paludosa)

Pest description and crop damage European crane fly (ECF) is a native of Western Europe which was introduced to eastern Canada and found in British Columbia in 1965. The mild winters, cool summers and relatively abundant rainfall in the PNW is ideal habitat for this insect and its range now extends as far south as central California. It has recently been documented east of the Cascades with a heavy infestation in a newly developed housing area in Spokane WA and some in Bend, OR. The adult is a large two-winged fly that is often compared to a large mosquito. ECF have one generation per year. The larvae are wormlike, with leathery skin, 1 to 1.5 inches long. Larvae hatch in late summer (Aug.-Sept.) and feed through winter and into spring, damaging turf anytime between December and May. ECF larvae feed primarily on shoots and crowns, but also feed on roots. Affected turf areas often thin out severely in early spring when normal turf starts vigorous growth. Starlings and other birds are attracted to affected turf and may damage it as they search for larvae. In 1998, the common crane fly (CCF) was positively identified in WA. This crane fly has 2 generations per year. The wings on the CCF are longer than the body and CCF females can fly farther to distribute their eggs than ECF females. The CCF is also found on wheat, strawberries and other crops.

Biology and life history ECF overwinters as a third-instar larva in the soil. Adult emergence may begin anytime from July to mid-October. Adult males are 14-19mm long, adult females are 19-25 mm long. Adult crane flies do not feed, they only drink water, and their life expectancy is 2-14 days. They usually mate and lay eggs within 24 hours of emergence. Eggs are laid on a wide range of crops, including turf, other grasses, legumes, crucifers, strawberry, corn and other crops. Eggs and early instar larvae require a very moist atmosphere or high mortality will occur. Eggs hatch in approximately 11-15 days. The young larvae develop rapidly through to the third instar, known as leatherjackets, in which state they overwinter. It is as growth resumes in late winter, December to April, that most turf damage occurs. By mid-April, larvae have molted to the fourth instar and feed only briefly before become inactive before pupation and adult emergence later in summer. There is only one generation per year. The CCF life cycle is similar, except it has 2 generations per year. The overwintering larvae from the previous fall, pupate in February-March and emerge in late March to April, mate and lay their eggs. The second generation of larvae mature from April through September and adults emerge for the second generation at the same time as the one generation of the ECF from Sept.-Oct. Estimates of which crane fly is most prevalent by observation of emergence timing would indicate that approximately 90-95% of the crane flies in WA are the ECFs at the present time.

Scouting and thresholds Monitor turf areas starting in December, looking for thin patches. Larvae are typically found in the top 1 inch of turf, so sampling is fairly straightforward by removing soil cores and counting larvae. A common clue that ECF or CCF are present is a high level of bird activity on the turf. Consider treating when larval populations reach 25-50 or more per square foot and turf thinning is apparent. Brown patches in turf which are observed in mid to late summer could be a sign of CCF damage, but are most likely due to inadequate irrigation.

Management-cultural control

Observations indicate that drought stress at the time of egg lay may significantly reduce larval populations. In the Willamette valley of Oregon, turning off turf irrigation systems shortly after Labor Day will often create enough drought stress to reduce larval populations without causing damage to turf. Unfortunately, around Labor Day is when most of the overseeding and seeding of new lawns is done. If there has been a history of a high population of ECF larvae in the past on your newly seeded site, it would be advisable to apply a preventative application at the time of seeding to limit the feeding of ECF larvae on the newly developing grass plants.

Management-biological control

Research indicates larvae are not affected by endophytic fungi common in some varieties of perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescue. Research in the PNW has indicated limited efficacy of beneficial nematodes (55% reduction in larvae at best). Applied biological controls in general have not been shown to be effective on this pest, although birds and mammals such as raccoons and skunks may be highly effective.

  • beneficial nematodes-Nematodes may only achieve 50% control, but this may be an acceptable level of control in some situations. Read label carefully for application procedures, timing and appropriate soil temperatures for best efficacy.

Management-chemical control: HOME USE

Do not permit children or pets on the treated turfgrass until it has been watered to wash the insecticide into the turf and the grass is completely dry. Most insecticides are toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or to residues on blooming weeds/ flowers in lawns: mow and remove clippings prior to applying insecticides.

  • azadirachtin-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • bifenthrin
  • carbaryl
  • chlorantraniliprole
  • clothianidin
  • esfenvalerate
  • imidacloprid
  • lambda-cyhalothrin
  • plant essential oils (peppermint, rosemary, etc.)-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • pyrethrins-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • thiamethoxam
  • trichlorfon

Management-chemical control: COMMERCIAL USE

When pest densities exceed thresholds, apply insecticides in the spring. Where serious prior infestations have occurred or when spring applications were missed, apply in mid-November to December. Most applications need irrigation or rainfall after treatment to get the insecticide to the thatch/soil interface layer where larvae are present. Do not permit children or pets on the treated turfgrass until it has been watered to wash the insecticide into the turf and the grass is completely dry. Most insecticides are toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or to residues on blooming weeds/ flowers in lawns: mow and remove clippings prior to applying insecticides.

  • azadirachtin (Azasol, Azatin, Azaguard Botanical Insecticide/Nematicide, Gordons Pro T&O Azatrol EC Insecticide, Ornazin 3% EC Botanical Insecticide, AzaMax AG 0.6)-For early larval instages in early fall for best results. OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • bifenthrin (Talstar GC Granular Insecticide, Talstar PL Granular Insecticide Talstar S, Select Insecticide, Onyx Pro Insecticide, Actishield, multiple label names)-Mow the lawn first and remove the clippings. Highly toxic to bees.
  • bifenthrin + imidacloprid (Allectus G Insecticide)-Neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned from use on public properties in some towns and counties (check with local authorities).
  • bifenthrin + zeta-cypermethrin (Talstar XTRA Granular)
  • carbaryl (Sevin Brand RP4 Carbaryl, Lebanon Sevin 7G Granular Insect Control, Sevin SL Carbaryl Insecticide)-Mow the lawn first and remove the clippings. Highly toxic to bees. Keep children and pets off the lawn until it has been thoroughly watered after treatment, and the grass is completely dry.
  • chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn Insecticide, Acelepryn G Insecticide)
  • chlorpyrifos (Andersons Golf Products Insecticide III, Dursban Pro, Dursban 50W In WSP Speciality Insecticide, Hatchet Insecticide, Nufos 4E Insecticide, Vulcan, Quali-Pro Chlorpyrifos 4E Insecticide, Warhawk, Warhawk Clearform)-Retail sale of products containing chlorpyrifos for residential use ended 12/31/01.
  • clothianidin (Arena 0.25G Insecticide, Arena, 50 WG Insecticide, Arena 50 WDG Insecticide)-Apply as soon as overwintering adults are seen in the spring. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned from use on public properties in some towns and counties (check with local authorities).
  • clothianidin + bifenthrin ( Aloft GC G Insecticide, Aloft GC SC Insecticide, Aloft LC G Insecticide, Aloft LC SC Insecticide)-Restricted use.
  • dinotefuran (Zylam)-Effective at oviposition and all larval stages. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned from use on public properties in some towns and counties (check with local authorities).
  • esfenvalerate + prallethrin + piperonyl butoxide (Onslaught FastCap Spider and Scorpion Insecticide)
  • imidacloprid (Adonis 2F Insect Conc., AmTide Imidacloprid, Avatar PLX Insecticide, Lesco Bandit 0.5G Granular Insecticide, Lesco Bandit 2F Inseciticide, Lesco Bandit 75 WSP Insecticide, Malice 0.5G, Malice 2F Insecticide, Malice 75WSP, Mallet 0.5G Insecticide, Mallet 2F Insecticide, Mallet 2F T&O Insecticide Mallet 75 WSP Insecticide, Mallet 7.1% PF Insecticide, Merit 0.5G Insecticide, Merit 2F Insecticide, Merit 75WP Insecticide, Merti 75WSP Insecticide, Midash 2SC T&O, Prokoz Zenith 0.5G Insecticide, Prokoz Zenith 2F Insecticide, Quali-Pro Imidacloprid 0.5G, Quali-Pro Imidacloprid2F T&O, Quali-Pro Imidacloprid 75 WSB Insecticide in WSP)-Apply at oviposition (Early September) for best results. Applications made later will not be successful. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned from use on public properties in some towns and counties (check with local authorities).
  • indoxacarb (DuPont Provaunt Insecticide, Provaunt Insecticide)-Apply to larvae in September/October for preventative applications. The higher label rate can be used as late as April for control of larvae. Do not use on sod farms.
  • lambda-cyhalothrin (Scimitar, Demand CS Insecticide, Demand EZ Insecticide, Demand G Insecticide, Cyonara 9.7 Insecticide, Cyzmic CS Controlled Release Insecticide, Exile 9.7, Patrol Insecticide)-Better results when applied at earlier instars. Not as effective as bifenthrin at later larval stages.
  • thiamethoxam (Meridian 0.33G Insecticide, Meridian 25WG Insecticide, Flagship 25WG Insecticide)-Effective only when applied at oviposition. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned from use on public properties in some towns and counties (check with local authorities).

For more information: Cranefly pests of the PNW-http://whatcom.wsu.edu/cranefly/index.htm