large crane fly

(Tipula borealis)

Conservation Status
large crane fly (Tipula borealis)
Photo by Alfredo Colon
  IUCN Red List

not listed


not listed


not listed


Tipula borealis is a medium-sized “large” crane fly. It occurs in the eastern North America from Quebec to Ontario south to South Carolina and Kansas. It is uncommon in Minnesota. Based on the number of reported sightings, it is either rare or more likely underreported. Adults are found in the summer in wet woodlands. Larvae are found in saturated forests in the very outer layers of fallen, well-rotted tree trunks, and often under moss.

Adults are slender, soft-bodied, yellowish- or grayish-brown, ½ to (13 to 17 mm) in length, and have a 916 to (14 to 15 mm) long wing length.

There are two large compound eyes on the sides of the head and no simple eyes (ocelli). The compound eyes are bare, not covered with hairs. The mouth parts are at the end of a short but conspicuous, snout-like projection (rostrum) on the front of the head. At the tip of the rostrum, on the upper side, there is a short pointed extension (nasus). The lower jaws (maxillae) have long sensory structures (palps) attached. Each palp has four segments. The fourth segment is antennae-like and very long, longer than first three segments combined. The antennae are short and have 13 segments. The segments are simple, not branched. Each segment has an enlarged base and a whorl of medium-length hairs at the base.

The upper thoracic plate (mesonotum) is brownish-gray with dull, darker gray, longitudinal stripes. It has a distinct, V-shaped groove (suture) on top near the wing bases.

The abdomen is long and slender, and has nine evident segments. Each segment is yellowish-brown with a dark, upper (middorsal), longitudinal stripe. The last abdominal segment on the female has a long, acutely pointed, egg-laying apparatus (ovipositor). On the male, the last segment is enlarged into a club-shaped structure (hypopygium) that supports the copulatory apparatus.

The wings are tinted grayish-brown with a few brown spots and areas of brown clouding. There is a narrow brown stripe on the leading edge (costal margin), with a clear patch just beyond the midpoint followed by a darker, brownish-gray patch. The radius (R) vein has three branches. The radial sector (Rs) vein is long. The media vein (M) is dark, bold, and forked near the margin. The basal section of the first branch of the cubitus vein (Cu1a) is long and joins with the third media vein (M3), which makes the discal cell appear to have five sides. There are two anal veins, both of them long and reaching the wing margin. On the female, the wings do not reach the tip of the abdomen. The outer cells may have very short hairs (microtrichia), seen only with magnification, but have no long hairs (macrotrichia). The cell at the end of the first branch of Cu1a, which is also designated as Cu1a, is only slightly wider at the base than at the margin.

The legs are long and slender. The fourth leg segment (tibia) of each leg has two spurs at the tip.




Total Length: ½ to (13 to 17 mm)


Similar Species


Wet woodlands








The wings are held spread at almost right angles when at rest.


Life Cycle




Larva Food




Adult Food


Adults do not feed


Distribution Map



24, 29, 30, 82.




Uncommon in Minnesota



Diptera (flies)  


Nematocera (long-horned flies)  


Tipulomorpha (crane flies)  


Tipuloidea (typical crane flies)  


Tipulidae (large crane flies)  









Tipula hebes


Common Names


This species has no common name. The common name of the family Tipulidae is large crane flies, and it is applied here for convenience.








Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.



The principal exoskeletal plate on the upper (dorsal) part of the middle segment of the thorax of an insect.



Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



A long needle-like tube on the abdomens of some female insects, used to inject eggs into soil or plant stems.



Short for pedipalp. A segmented, finger-like process of an arthropod; one is attached to each maxilla and two are attached to the labium. They function as sense organs in spiders and insects, and as weapons in scorpions. Plural: palpi or palps.



The stiff, beak-like projection of the carapace or prolongation of the head of an insect, crustacean, or cetacean.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.






Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Alfredo Colon

    large crane fly (Tipula borealis)      








Visitor Videos

Share your video of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos



Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

large crane fly (Tipula borealis)  






Created: 3/3/2021

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.