Featured Article | GreenCast | Syngenta

Plan Ahead for Preventive Control of European Crane Fly

By Matt Giese, technical services manager for Syngenta

There are more than 1,000 species of crane flies native to North America. Of these, only two types — the European crane fly (Tipula paludosa) and the common crane fly (Tipula oleracea) — cause damage to golf courses, sports fields and lawns in the U.S. They can be tricky to identify; therefore, it is important to work with an extension agent who can help you identify them based on their biology then recommend solutions for control.

Scouting for crane flies
Crane fly larvae cause damage by feeding on roots, shoots and stems of turfgrass plants. They prefer wet or moist soils and tend to be localized near bodies of water, though it’s not required for them to be present.

The larvae have a pupal case, also called a “leatherjacket,” which may stick up from the surface of the turf. They often go undetected until population levels cross the damage threshold. You’ll generally notice larvae damage in areas of thin turf in the spring after thaw or during drought stress. This damage can resemble “ball marks” on a golf course or black cutworm damage.

In higher-cut turf, the first observable symptom is thinning turf in the form of yellowing spots and bare patches. You may also notice evidence of animal digging activity as raccoons, skunks and opossums forage for mature crane fly larvae.

side by side photo

Scouting for adult crane flies should occur during peak activity in the spring and fall.

Preventive solutions
If left untreated, crane flies can heavily damage turf. Once larvae develop into fourth and final instars, insecticide treatments are not as effective, so it is critical to apply preventively and target newly hatched larvae. Traditional insecticide application timing for white grub control typically does not overlap crane fly larvae emergence, so a separate application may be required for optimum control.

For European crane flies and common crane flies, preventive applications are best made in late fall at the time of egg laying, or when larvae are smaller and still active at the soil surface.

Preventive control recommendations:

  • Mid-summer – early fall application timing (early July – September)
  • Fall application timing (August – October) – this application targets both the common and European species

Curative solutions
Curative applications can be made in spring once feeding damage is detected; however, successful control at this time is more difficult.

Curative control option:

  • Spring application timing (April – May)
    • Provaunt WDG at 18 oz. per acre

crane fly chart​​​​​​​

For a more in-depth look at protecting your turf from these insects, download our crane fly solutions sheet.

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