Sometimes you learn things as an adult that completely contradicts what you believed as a child. The older I get, the less I know, or so the saying goes.
Last week, I discovered something about a common misconception I firmly believed since my youth. I’m still reeling from what I’ve learned. It’s not that important, actually, but I’m pretty sure there are plenty of adults who believe the same thing I did, and I decided to enlighten you all.
From time to time at work, my coworkers and I will begin conversations about a variety of random subjects, and in some way or another we’ll drift from one unrelated topic to the next. At some point, we landed on the subject of mosquito hawks.
You know those bugs I’m talking about? The ones that looked like mosquitos on steroids, who clumsily fly around porch lamps and bump into your head? I call them mosquito hawks, but I’ve heard them addressed as mosquito eaters, or “skeeter eaters.”
When I asked what they were as a child, an adult answered, “They’re called mosquito hawks. They eat mosquitos, so don’t kill them if you can help it.”
Anyway, at work, we got on the subject of mosquito hawks. As we chatted, it dawned on me that while we all believed mosquito hawks ate mosquitos, we hadn’t actually seen one, well, catch and eat a mosquito. One of my coworkers said, “Yeah, I don’t know how they eat them. They must swoop down and sting them or something.”
Our conversation soon petered out and we turned back to our desks, but the question plagued me: how do skeeter eaters eat skeeters? (Say that 10 times fast.)
Like any other millennial – and every other modern-day person – I fell down the perpetual rabbit hole of the internet to answer my burning question. So I typed into the search engine, “How do mosquito hawks eat mosquitos?”
I was expecting to find a really cool video of those awkward flying insects suddenly shifting into the swift predators that they are known to be and snatch a mosquito midair. Were they like spiders, who suck their prey dry? Or did they have tiny pincers designed for chowing down? Or more terrifying yet, do they have a hidden stinger they use to stab and paralyze? I waited with bated breath as the page loaded.
What I learned shook me to my core, and made me question everything I was taught as a child. OK, maybe I wasn’t that shook, but what I discovered did surprise me.
It turns out, mosquito hawks don’t kill mosquitos in any of those ways.
Because mosquito hawks don’t eat mosquitos.
Digest that for a moment.
Mosquito hawks, or more properly known as crane flies, not only don’t eat mosquitos, they’re also completely harmless, so they don’t bite humans (or anything at all). According to gotscience.org, “Adult crane flies have a very limited diet, feeding on nectar, or not feeding at all. Once they become adults, most crane fly species exist only to mate and die. Their lifespan is short, ranging from only two to 15 days, depending on environmental factors.”
In fact, it’s the crane fly larva’s diet that you should be wary of, not the adults’. Crane fly larva, or sometimes known as “leatherjackets,” can cause damage to your lawn because they feed on the crown and roots of grass turf. DoMyOwn.com states that crane fly larva will hatch in the fall in lawns, feed on the turf, and then spend the winter in the soil only to re-emerge in the spring to eat more of your lawn. So, if you have dry spots on your lawn, it may be due to crane fly larva.
So there you go. Skeeter eaters don’t eat skeeters, and baby skeeter eaters eat grass. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.