of Natura



Adult flies of this family can be separated into two subfamilies and they are very different in appearance.  Subfamily Bittacomorphinae, the phantom crane fly, is one of the most conspicuous and interesting of all local flies.  Adult flies of this group have long dark legs, sometime banded with white.  Species of the subfamily Ptychopterinae are more resemble to over-sized fungus gnats.  

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| Bittacomorpha clavipes|  Bittacomorphella jonesi| Ptychoptera quadrifasciata |

Bittacomorpha clavipes (Fabricius)   [^Top]

The common “phantom crane fly” may be easily recognized by the black and white banded legs and conspicuously swollen basitarsi.  The adults are about 12-16 mm in size and are very characteristic of swampy areas, where they often can be observed drifting in the wind with the long legs extended to catch the breeze.  While in copulation the insects often fly, the female ahead, the male trailing behind like the tail of a kite.  When they alight on a plant stem, the female is invariably uppermost, the male often hanging free with none of its feet on a support (Alexander, 1920).  Larvae are aquatic living in the rich organic vegetable matter in swamps.

Bittacomorpha clavipes (male) Bittacomorpha clavipes by Giff Beaton Bittacomorpha clavipes (female)
Bittacomorpha clavipes male by Tom Murray Bittacomorpha clavipes female by Tom Murray

Bittacomorphella jonesi (Johnson)   [^Top]

The adult fly of this species is the so-called “pigmy phantom crane fly” (8-10 mm) and can be found near springs or small streams in cold woods.  The arrangement of black and white bands on their legs is distinctly different than that on the common phantom crane flies.  The life history of this species is similar to that of the previous species.  The picture below on the right is an image of Bittacomorphella pacifica from the west coast to compare with our local species, also notice the differences compared with the previous genus Bittacomorpha.

Bittacomorphella jonesi  Bittacomorphella pacifica by Jon Preston


Ptychoptera quadrifasciata Say   [^Top]

Adults of this species are about 7-9 mm in size.  They more resemble a large fungus-gnat than a crane fly.  They have transparent wings and with numerous macrotrichia in the wing-tip cells.  Their abdomen is black with basal segments ringed at proximal ends with yellow.  This species is also an inhabitant of swampy areas usually from May to June and again in late August and early September.  The immature stages are aquatic or nearly so, found mainly in saturated mud at the margins of streams or in swales.  The larvae have a long retractile respiratory siphon at the posterior end, and the pupae are most unusual with one elongated breathing horn (20-25 mm) and one degenerated one (3-4 mm).
 Ptychoptera quadrifasciata   Ptychoptera quadrifasciata by Erik Blosser   Ptychoptera quadrifasciata 

















  Last Updated: 09/28/2007
  Page ©2005 James W. Fetzner Jr.
  Photos by Chen Young, unless otherwise stated.
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