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Published on March 30, 2021

Grandpa tries to hold lesson on crane flies

But it doesn’t go exactly as planned

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

The three younger grandchildren have an aversion to crane flies, commonly referred to as “mosquito hawks.” They don’t bite, don’t sting, don’t eat much. They just fly into the house where they haplessly bump into walls.

My grandchildren are scared of them, so I devised a plan to try to change that.

I had two recently deceased “mosquito hawks,” bodies intact (an unusual occurrence), lying in state on a paper towel in my kitchen. My mission was to transport these “mosquito hawks” to my son’s home still intact. They are very fragile in life and more so in this deceased state.

I want them to look, not touch, these innocuous insects, and I want to convince the grand kids that they mean them no harm. They would be incapable to do so, even if they did. This could be a challenge, since when they see a living “mosquito hawk,” they scream and run with speed augmented by fear.

I also printed a page from Wikipedia that had an enlarged photo and some sketchy information about crane flies. Entomologists seem to know little about crane flies in general. Some drink water and nectar but not all. I guess with a 3-day life span you don’t have to be durable, so that must explain their fragility and lack of need for sustenance.

Despite their common name, they do not actually eat mosquitoes. Sometimes they eat the mosquito larvae but not enough to actually consider them mosquito hawks or mosquito eaters. So they wouldn’t be considered a way to get rid of mosquitoes naturally.

I put the computer printout inside a plastic bag, along with the paper towel carrying the two deceased mosquito hawks lying in state. I arrived at my son’s house and gathered the three youngest children (Lottie, almost 3, Sissy Boo, 4 ½, and Bubba, 7) to attend my show-and-tell presentation.

I should have known I was in trouble when the middle child, Sissy Boo, a practical female, inquired about the paper towel. “Is that their blanket?”

I tried to explain the paper towel and finally came up with an answer. “It’s a soft surface for them to lie on.”
I further explained these mosquito hawks were dead. Lottie asked, “Why are they dead?” I rushed on past that.
I explained that these fragile creatures don’t even land on them. “They fly into the walls and windows trying to get away from you.”

Bubba then blew on the carcasses, and the one closest to him was gone with the wind. He then insisted that they do indeed eat mosquitoes. “Why is the one in the picture so big?” he inquired. I then tried to explain: “I enlarged the picture so it would be easier for you to see.”

Bubba, in his 7-year-old wisdom, said, “Well, it is a really big one.”

They all ran off, distracted by the television, the dog - or just to run off. I looked at the success of my mission or lack thereof.

The two girls acknowledged that crane flies don’t eat or bite. Lottie found out that they are fragile when she easily smashed the corpse.

Bubba knew they are exceptionally light as he puffed, and one of the carcasses was carried away by his breath. Sissy Boo was still concerned that they didn’t have blankets.

I was happy that there wasn’t a test to show what they learned from my presentation.

I learned that I should choose to do this again - but with one child at a time.

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at eforbes1946@gmail.com or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)