Crane Fly with Large, Branched Antennae

2014 April 23

I found this good-sized crane fly in the road on July 1, 2013. It had apparently been banged up by a near-miss from a car, so it wasn’t in any shape to flee.

Its most striking feature is its large, branched, antler-like antennae.

In insects, really large antennae generally are a sign that the insect is male, and seeks out females by scent.

These antennae are very unusual in crane flies, and narrow him down to being in the genus Ctenophora. Specifically, after checking the wing venation, he looks like a picture-perfect match for Ctenophora nubecula, right down to the blurry brown spot near the middle of the leading edge of the wing.

Aside from the showy antennae, these are fairly standard crane flies, completely harmless and laying their eggs in decomposing material (in this case, usually rotting wood).

I’m kind of lucky that this was a male. Without the distinctive antennae for a starting point, it would have been a hard slog through the identification key. I never seem to have much luck with identification keys, because they frequently have ID features that are hard to see in photographs.

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