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Crane flies are swarming just about everywhere in Austin

An orange-brown flying insect with long legs and big wings sits on a white wall.
Missouri Department of Conservation
They're annoying, but perfectly harmless.

One of the earliest signs of spring is probably buzzing around your home.

In Texas, most people call them mosquito hawks. They are large insects that show up at the end of winter and seem impossible to keep from getting inside our homes.

Dr. Sonja Swiger is an entomologist at Texas A&M University. She says the actual name is crane fly.

"They are kind of the first insect to emerge, I would say, in large numbers coming out of winter," said Swiger.

The crane flies live most of their lives in the larval stage, emerging as flying insects for only a few days as they look for a mate. Swiger says they aren't a threat to humans or mosquitoes.

"They are harmless. They don't have any mouth parts so unfortunately, they can't eat our mosquitoes which would be cool if they did," said Swiger.

The crane flies are valuable to the ecosystem of the soil. They tend to be found in moist areas where they spend the majority of their lives as larvae feeding on decaying organic matter.

Southeast Texas has experienced a mild, wet winter. That has allowed the crane flies to emerge in large numbers. Other insects will likely be close behind, including mosquitoes.

"Mosquitoes are kind of on the list. They going to start emerging generally in May is when we say mosquito season starts," said Swiger. "When you have a mild winter that will move up a few weeks, so it could be like late March or April when we see mosquitoes become a problem."

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