European crane fly

Tipula paludosa 

The crane fly is native to Europe but has spread to the United States and Canada. It feeds on many grasses, including perennial rye grass and cereals. It eats the grass roots, reducing growth and sometimes killing the grass.

Why the European crane fly is a risk to New Zealand

The larvae of the European crane fly live in the soil and eat a large number of plants that are important to New Zealand. The crane fly mainly eats pasture plants and cereal crops. It can also attack crops like beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas, potatoes, and even berries.

If it established in New Zealand, it could harm our agriculture and horticulture industries. Farmers may have to use extra insecticide to protect their pasture and crops.

Global distribution of European crane fly

World map showing distribution of European crane fly.

How it could come to New Zealand

The only likely way for the European crane fly to enter New Zealand is as larvae in soil, probably on used agriculture equipment.

It's unlikely the European crane fly could get to New Zealand. But it could cause a lot of harm to many of our primary industries if it did arrive here.

What does it look like?

The adult looks like a typical 'daddy long legs' fly. It looks a lot like insects already present in New Zealand.

Alt text from CMS.
Adult crane fly on a green leaf. Image: Saxifraga-Ab H Baas
  • The body of a female adult crane fly grows to 25mm to 30mm.
  • Eggs are oval, shiny, black, up to 3mm long.
  • Eggs are found on the leaves of the grasses it feeds on.
  • Larvae (also known as leatherjackets) are a pale, sandy colour and grow up 40mm in length.
  • Larvae live in tunnels in the ground. You're only likely to find them if you're digging.

If you think you've found the crane fly

Note: This information is a summary of this pest's global distribution and potential impacts on New Zealand.

Last reviewed: