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Wingless Snow-walking Crane Flies

3-2-17-snow-walking-wingless-crane-fly-img_9477Thanks to a sharp-eyed Naturally Curious blog reader, a recently mis-identified active winter insect can be correctly identified. What I referred to as a “snow scorpionfly” last week was, in fact, a type of crane fly that, as an adult, has no wings. Like snow scorpionflies, these wingless snow-walking crane flies appear on top of the snow on warm winter days. These two kinds of insects are also very similar in shape and size, but, unlike snow scorpionflies, this group of crane flies have what are called halteres, knobbed filaments which act as balancing organs (see photo).

Scorpion snowflies, despite their name, are not true flies in the order Diptera.  Crane flies are.  Most species of true flies have one pair of wings, instead of the usual two that winged insects have, as well as halters, which take the place of hind wings and vibrate during flight. While wingless snow-walking crane flies lack a pair of wings, they do possess halteres, which are the key to distinguishing between a wingless snow-walking crane fly and a snow scorpionfly, which lacks them!  (Thanks to Jay Lehtinen for photo I.D.)

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6 responses

  1. Dace Weiss

    I’ve been reading your book, “Naturally Curious” all year and am loving it. Thank You! I do have just one question: why is it that there is no mention at all of the now ubiquitous tick? Is it too complicated and ever changing?

    On Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 8:11 AM, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “Thanks to a sharp-eyed Naturally Curious blog > reader, a recently mis-identified active winter insect can be correctly > identified. What I referred to as a “snow scorpionfly” last week was, in > fact, a type of crane fly that, as an adult, has no wings. Like ” >

    March 2, 2017 at 9:40 am

    • Hi Dace,
      If you get your hands on a copy of Naturally Curious Day by Day (just out last fall) you’ll see that I devoted an essay to the black-legged tick as well as a couple of other entries!

      March 2, 2017 at 11:25 am

  2. Hi Mary, hope this finds you feeling much better! I am always impressed with your eye for detail and how quickly you correct any mistakes. This time I have truly learned something I never knew before: flies and halteres! Imagine that! Fascinating adaptation! Thank you too, to your reader who saw that miniscule detail!

    March 2, 2017 at 10:45 am

  3. Mary Jo

    “Wingless Snow-walking Crane Flies”

    What a headline! What a bird!

    (It gave me a chuckle.) Hope you are feeling better.

    March 2, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    • How funny, Mary Jo, I never stopped to read it like that!

      March 2, 2017 at 12:47 pm

  4. Sandi Holland

    Amazing.xoxoxosandi >

    March 4, 2017 at 4:37 pm

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