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Insects Commonly Mistaken for Mosquitoes
Crane Flies (Tipulidae)
Crane Flies (Tipulidae) are delicate insects varying in size from ¼ inch to as large as 1½ inches in length. The largest crane flies are sometimes called "daddy-long-legs", "gully nippers", or "mosquito hawks". However, they do not bite people and they do not eat mosquitoes. Some species of crane flies emerge from aquatic sources and others from terrestrial or decaying vegetation sources. Crane flies are not predacious and usually many times larger than a typical mosquito. Adults are strongly attracted to porch lights. The larvae live in loose soil or organic matter and feed on the roots of plants.
Mayflies (Ephemeroptera) can be quite abundant near creeks, flood control channels and other water sources throughout the United States. Their larvae are found in most aquatic habitats and can live in moving water. Adult mayflies are recognized by the way they hold their wings at rest and the presence of two or three long "caudal" filaments at the tip of the abdomen. Though not even closely resembling mosquitoes, their seasonal occurrence at porch lights and on the walls of buildings near their aquatic breeding sources invariably attracts the attention of some concerned residents. The nymphs of mayflies develop in all types of aquatic habitats where they form an important part of the food chain. Adults are among the most short lived in the insect world.
Midges (Chironomidae) are the most wide spread and numerous insects resembling mosquitoes. Adult Midges are commonly observed flying in swarms or "clouds", or are seen resting on fences, walls, under eaves and in protected areas such as porches and entryways. Individual adults will live about seven days depending upon the species and weather conditions. The larvae develop in sources having extensive areas of standing water.
Dixid Midges (Dixidae)
Dixid Midges (Dixidae) are common around moist areas where vegetation is abundant and may be seen swarming at dusk along the edges of streams and lakes. The adults are short lived, usually being active less than a week. The larvae are found in slow moving water, at the surface, and swim in a characteristic "U" shape. These midges lack a proboscis and scales on the wings. Periodically, dixids can produce staggeringly large emergences, but only in local and certain ecological situations.
Fungus Gnats (Sciaridae) are small (about ¼ inch long), black flies commonly found around decaying vegetation. They have large wings and long antennae, but they are weak flyers and do not move far from the breeding site.
Dance Flies (Empididae)
Dance Flies (Empididae) appear like mosquitoes by the way they swarm in sunlit areas in backyards and other sheltered situations. The vertical movements of the swarming adults gives them their common name. Several of the Empis species are "balloon makers." That is, the male flies capture an insect and enclose it in a frothy bag that they carry as a lure to entice the female to mate. Some species dispense with the froth, capturing and displaying live flies in front of females as a preface to courtship. Others trick their intended with an empty ball of silk. Larvae are usually found in rich, moist soil, decaying vegetable matter and in aquatic associations, or under the bark of trees.