Field Insights Blog | GreenCast | Syngenta
Field Insights Blog | GreenCast | Syngenta

Fire Away at Crane Flies

The European crane fly snuck into Michigan several years ago, and yet it still remains a misunderstood and overlooked pest on golf courses, sports fields, and home lawns.  It favors wet soils and areas near bodies of water such as lakes and marshes.  Since this pest came in under the radar, populations went unchecked and have skyrocketed over the last two years.

A month ago, I began receiving my first calls from superintendents reporting a large number of adult European crane flies swarming their properties. The most commonly asked question became, “What can I apply to control the adults?”

European crane fly larvae can cause damage to turfgrass roots and shoots. 
“Leatherjackets” resemble cutworms in appearance and damage.  
Photo credit: Adam Garr

A chemical application to control adults is unnecessary and would likely prove both costly and ineffective.  The best advice is to wait for egg lay and attack the newly hatched larvae.

The adult crane fly only lives for about a week and does not damage turf.  Eggs are normally deposited in the thatch.  They prefer moist soil conditions (i.e. irrigated golf courses and overwatered lawns).  A single female may lay between 300-400 eggs.  

Adult European crane fly looking for a place to lay eggs in a home lawn. 
Photo credit: Adam Garr

Eggs hatch in about one to two weeks, and these larvae (known as “leatherjackets”) will begin to eat thatch, shoots, and roots of turfgrass.  They may be found on greens, tees, fairways, roughs, home lawns, sports fields…they are indiscriminate about turf variety.  European crane fly leatherjackets overwinter in the soil and will feed on turf until September.  The common crane fly has two generations per year.

European crane fly damage to bentgrass/poa fairway in July.  Photo credit: Adam Garr

Control options:  Apply Provaunt at 12 oz/Acre timed around egg lay.  For best control, apply Provaunt in mid-October.  Meridian is another control option for crane fly with a longer residual.  Apply Meridian at 17 oz/Acre in early or mid-October. 
Timing/How it works:  We are not targeting the adults.  We are targeting the newly-hatched larvae.  A well-timed application of Provaunt or Meridian in mid-October has been show to provide up to 95% control for both common and European crane flies.  Scout now where the adults are laying eggs and hit the larvae when they are small.  The leatherjackets overwinter and will be bigger and harder to kill in the spring.  They will damage the turf in early spring and may also result in foraging damage from birds and animals.
I’m just not sure…  Not sure if you are suffering a European crane fly infestation?  Good control may still be achieved with Provaunt in the spring.  Keep scouting and if you discover anything resembling cutworm damage in April or May, consider doing a soap flush and see what surfaces.  Chances are, it will be a leatherjacket.

Where are they in Michigan?  European crane flies have been positively identified in Southeast Michigan with hotspots in Troy, West Bloomfield, and Northville; Ann Arbor; Bay City; and Grand Rapids.
Lessons from History:  If a property has a history of European crane fly damage, it is highly recommend they treat preemptively this fall to safeguard their turf for the 2018 season.  The European crane fly is an invasive new species to Michigan, and due to its life cycle it requires more specialized and time-specific control options.

Learn more about how to protect your turf from crane flies with this Crane Fly Solutions sheet.  

About the author

Adam Garr is a Syngenta Turf & Landscape Territory Manager located in the Midwestern US. You may also follow Adam on Twitter:

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