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WILDLIFE: Daddy long legs in 'harmless' invasion

Friday 15th October 2021

GOLF course greenkeepers hate them but fly-fishers love them...and the humble daddy long legs is here in record numbers this autumn.

The insect, more formally known as the crane fly, is buzzing around gardens and in our homes after a bumper hatch, which experts believed was caused by caused topsy-turvy spring weather.

This led to the larvae, known as leather-jackets, thriving in the top soil where they feed on roots prior to emerging as the adult.

The leather-jacket can cause a lot of damage to grass and plants, leaving bare patches on lawns and golf course greens.

However, "daddies" which are blown onto rivers and lakes are devoured by trout and many imitations made from feathers and fur are employed to great effect by fly-fishers.

Naturalist Theo McCausland, of Langley, said: "There are many more than usual and it seems to be the same story in this part of Kent as elsewhere in the country.

"It's hard to know why it has happened but very likely it has to do with weather in the spring. They are an important food source as larvae and as adults.

“If you ever see rooks ‘dancing’ in a field, that’s when they are picking off crane flies as they emerge through the grass.”

The crane fly is harmless and largely does not eat anything during its brief existence lasting only a fortnight. Their sole purpose is to mate and die.

Many baseless myths surround the daddy long legs, not least that they are most venomous insect in the county. If anything, they more of a prey species, says Mr McCausland.

There are 300 species of British crane fly, although one is indistinguishable from the next except to expert entomologists.

They normally start emerging from their larval home in mid to late August, signalling for some the approaching end of summertime.

Mr McCausland added: “The daddy long legs gets a bit of a bad reputation, largely not deserved, and probably does more good than harm in the long run.”