NATURE NOTES - Invasion of the Long-Legged Ones

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I HAD three phone calls last week from people concerned about being subjected to a ‘plague of Biblical proportions’!

Crane flies or Daddy Long legs have been invading homes across the borough at night through open doors and windows attracted to the light.

‘Go to the light’ is the mantra that all crane flies chant as they wibble and wobble through the air flying here and there.

If you can call it flying, it’s more of a ‘falling with style’ as someone once said.

With them being in love with the light it was pretty stupid evolving into a nocturnal insect that would fly towards any light, bumping into anything in their flight path as they career onwards.

They have fairly smallish wings which barely carry the weight of their dangly legs, so you’ll often see them bouncing along the floor or lawn, not quite able to get airborne and reach a decent cruising altitude.

To tell the truth we have also had several visit us at night over the last week or so – sneaking in when the back door has been left open – but soon being evicted back into the night.

After spiders, crane flies probably cause the most panic when encountered in the home – especially if they turn up in the bedroom attracted by the bedside light.

But don’t panic they are completely harmless.

They neither bite nor sting, in fact as adults they don’t even eat much – just the occasional sip of nectar or other fluids!

The female lays her eggs in the ground, where the larvae feed on vegetation, sometimes causing damage by gnawing at the roots of plants.

The larvae of crane flies are commonly called “leather jackets” and are very unpopular with gardeners as they will feed on grass roots, which leave large areas of yellowing grass and could eventually destroy the lawn.

The weather conditions of late have been perfect for them – hence the increased number that have invaded our homes.

But don’t worry they don’t live that long, usually only a few days, so the problem will soon vanish when we start with the first ground frosts.

There are around 300 species of crane fly in the British Isles.

In the world, there are over 14,000!

Now what a job that would be counting them all...

Our swallows, swifts and martins are all packed and ready for their holidays now. In fact it’s a couple of weeks ago that I saw my last swift.

Swallow numbers sat sitting on the phone lines along our lane are dropping every day and soon they’ll all have departed for much sunnier and warmer climes in southern Africa. Migrating swallows cover 200 miles a day, mainly during daylight, at speeds of 17-22 miles per hour.

The maximum flight speed is 35 mph. In their wintering areas swallows feed in small flocks, which join together to form roosting flocks of thousands of birds.