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ABUZZ OVER GIANT BUGS: THOSE AREN'T MOSQUITOES.

Byline: Associated Press

Those creepy, long-legged insects circling crazily around porch lights, zipping clumsily around living rooms and crawling the patio walls aren't jumbo mosquitoes.

They're crane flies, popularly known as mosquito hawks, and they are actually gentle giants that are among the good bugs who nibble and fertilize. There is no need to fear them - most adult crane flies can't eat or chew.

``People think, if this is a mosquito, it's so big, what is it going to do when it bites me? But it has vestigial mouth parts - parts that don't work,'' said Phil Phillips, a pest management adviser with the University of California extension in Ventura.

This year, warm, wet weather helped create an abundance of the spindly crane flies, some with 1-1/2-inch legs, a 2-inch body and 2-inch wingspan.

``It seems like there are zillions. And there probably are,'' Phillips said.

Phone calls from residents, curious and worried, have been pouring in to the Ventura County Environmental Health Office.

``Calls are coming in from all over Ventura County,'' environmental health specialist Randy Smith said. ``Most of the calls are from people who have seen them around their house, who believe they are very large mosquitoes.''

Mark Westerline, district manager and entomologist for the Moorpark Mosquito Abatement District, said it's easy to tell the difference between a mosquito and a crane fly.

``A good rule of thumb,'' Westerline said, ``is with a true mosquito . . . you can take a dime and squash it. With a crane fly, it might take a quarter, or even a silver dollar.''

There are about 1,500 different types of crane flies across the United States, with about 400 in California. They live about two weeks.

``They don't cause any damage. They don't cause any public health problems,'' Smith said.

Phillips said the important thing to remember is that they help the environment by recycling decomposing nutrients in the soil.

``There is no need to mash them,'' Phillips said. ``The adults can be aggravating. They are so clumsy when they fly that they bump into us. But they are very delicate and very easy to catch.''

He recommended taking them outside.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 2, 1997
Words:359
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