Mosquito hawks, also known as crane flies, do not eat spiders. Adult crane flies primarily feed on nectar, and some adult crane flies do not eat at all due to their short lifespan. Crane fly larvae, also called leatherjackets, feed on decaying wood, roots of grass, and other plant materials. Contrary to popular belief, crane flies do not eat mosquitoes either.
Mosquito hawks do not eat spiders. When they grow up into the familiar giant-looking mosquitos, they feed on small amounts of nectar.
Answered from John L.
If you’ve spotted a giant mosquito-like insect, you may have wondered – do mosquito hawks eat spiders? It’s a common assumption, but the reality is that these harmless flies do not prey on spiders or other insects. This comprehensive guide will uncover the truth about what mosquito hawks eat across their lifecycle.
Table of Contents:
- What are Mosquito Hawks?
- The Lifecycle of Mosquito Hawks
- Mosquito Hawk Larvae Diet
- Adult Mosquito Hawk Diet
- Do Mosquito Hawks Eat Spiders or Insects?
- Insects and Arachnids That Prey on Spiders
- Spider Wasps
- Jumping Spiders
- Orbweaver Spiders
- Mosquito Hawks vs. Spider Predators
- Debunking Myths
- Importance to Ecosystems
What are Mosquito Hawks?
Mosquito hawks belong to the crane fly family Tipulidae, with over 15,000 species worldwide. They earned their common name due to their resemblance to giant mosquitos.
These insects have extremely long and slender legs that can reach up to 3 inches (7.5 cm). Their narrow bodies are about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length. Mosquito hawks vary in color from black to brown to yellow. Two distinguishing features are the V-shaped sutures on their thorax and their lack of a proboscis.
Mosquito hawks inhabit a wide range of ecosystems throughout every continent except Antarctica. They thrive in moist areas and can be found in meadows, woodlands, marshes, and along the edges of streams and ponds.
Now that we’ve identified these intriguing insects, let’s take a closer look at their complete life cycle.
The Lifecycle of Mosquito Hawks
Mosquito hawks undergo a simple metamorphosis with four main life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
The lifecycle begins when a female mosquito hawk lays batches of tiny eggs in soil or on plants over water. A single female can lay up to 600 eggs, sometimes in just a single evening.
After 7 to 10 days, the eggs hatch into the larval form called a leatherjacket. Leatherjackets live underground feeding on roots, decaying leaves, algae, and other organic matter. They grow through 6 to 7 instars over 1 to 2 years before pupating.
In the pupal stage, the insect undergoes a metamorphosis within an earth chamber, emerging 10 to 14 days later as an adult mosquito hawk.
Adult mosquito hawks live for only about 10 days. Their sole purpose is to reproduce and lay eggs for the next generation. The adults do not feed at all or sip only nectar.
Now that we’ve reviewed their life stages, let’s look at what mosquito hawk larvae and adults consume.
Mosquito Hawk Larvae Diet
Mosquito hawk larvae, known as leatherjackets for their tough skin, live underground among plant roots. They use their chewing mouthparts to feed on:
- Decaying leaves
- Dead roots
- Rotting organic matter
Leatherjackets play an important role in breaking down and recycling nutrients from dead plant material back into the soil. As they digest decayed matter, their waste products fertilize the earth.
Despite their name, leatherjackets rarely feed heavily on living plant roots or stems. While they ingest some small roots, they typically do not cause significant damage to plants.
Overall, mosquito hawk larvae contribute positively to their ecosystems by returning nutrients from decomposing matter into the soil.
Adult Mosquito Hawk Diet
Once mosquito hawks morph into their adult form, they no longer feed on decaying matter. Adult mosquito hawks have reduced mouthparts and an incomplete digestive system.
If they eat anything at all, it will only be small amounts of nectar to provide energy for reproduction. Essentially, adult mosquito hawks do not feed – they live only long enough to mate and lay eggs to perpetuate their species.
So in summary, adult mosquito hawks do not hunt prey or consume any animal matter. Their role is breeding, after which they die shortly after laying eggs.
Do Mosquito Hawks Eat Spiders or Insects?
Given their ferocious appearance, a logical assumption would be that mosquito hawks prey on spiders, insects, and other small creatures. However, the reality is that mosquito hawks do not hunt other living animals at any point in their lifecycle.
Neither the larvae nor adult life stages ingest any prey. Leatherjackets subsist solely on decaying plant matter underground. Adult mosquito hawks virtually do not eat at all, living only days after emerging.
While their long legs and menacing size may suggest dangerous predators, mosquito hawks are harmless to all insects, spiders, and other creatures. They do not bite, sting, or consume spiders or bugs.
So if mosquito hawks don’t eat spiders, what insects do prey on spiders? Keep reading.
Insects and Arachnids That Prey on Spiders
While they seem like obvious spider hunters, mosquito hawks do not actually consume spiders. However, there are several insect and arachnid species that do specialize in preying on spiders. These include:
Spider wasps comprise over 5,000 species in the Pompilidae family. As larvae, nearly all spider wasps prey exclusively on spiders.
The female wasp first stalks then stings and paralyzes a spider. Then she drags the stunned spider into a nest burrow and lays an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the wasp larva consumes the still-living paralyzed spider for nutrition.
Some of the most common spider wasp species are:
- Blue-black wasps – These striking metallic blue wasps paralyze orbweaver spiders and other varieties to feed their young.
- Tarantula hawks – The female tarantula hawk wasp paralyzes a tarantula spider and lays a single egg on it. The larva slowly devours the immobilized spider.
- Sand wasps – Sand wasps provision their underground nests with paralyzed spiders for their offspring to eat alive.
Spider wasps are solitary insects who do not form colonies. The female constructs nests in small burrows in the ground or holes in wood, stocking each cell with one paralyzed spider. Spider wasps are not aggressive and rarely sting unless provoked.
Jumping spiders comprise over 5,000 species in the Salticidae family. Most species have four pairs of large front eyes that give them excellent vision.
Jumping spiders are active hunters who stalk prey by sight and pounce up to 40 times their body length. Unlike other spiders, they do not build webs to trap prey. Their diet consists primarily of insects but also includes other spiders.
Some common jumping spider species include:
- Daring jumping spider – These huge jumping spiders can leap up to 6 inches on their prey. They consume mostly insects but also hunt other spiders.
- Bronze jumping spider – With iridescent green fangs, these jumping spiders mainly eat flies, moths, crickets, and other spiders like orbweavers.
- Orchard jumping spider – This species inhabits gardens and orchards, preying on insects and spiders among the plants.
Jumping spiders are unique among arachnids for their ability to leap substantial distances and actively hunt prey rather than build webs. Many species supplement their diet by catching and consuming other smaller spiders.
Orbweaver spiders belong to the Araneidae, Tetragnathidae, and Uloboridae families comprising over 3,000 species worldwide. Orbweavers spin characteristic circular webs.
Their webs often feature thick support threads and a sticky spiral for trapping insects in flight. Attracted by the heat and carbon dioxide from prey, orbweavers build webs in areas with abundant insect traffic.
In addition to insects, orbweavers also capture and consume other spiders that blunder into their webs, including:
- Garden spiders – These common orbweavers spin large webs in gardens, fields, and forests, preying on insects and spiders.
- Barn spiders – Found in barns and other structures, their webs can measure over 2 feet wide to capture walking and flying prey.
- Banded garden spiders – This colorful species weaves zig-zag patterns into its web. It eats insects and smaller spiders.
While orbweavers mainly trap flying insects, they will readily consume other spiders caught in their webs as supplementary nutrition.
Now that we’ve covered the major spider predators, how do they contrast with mosquito hawks?
Mosquito Hawks vs. Spider Predators
Although they appear spider-like at first glance, mosquito hawks differ greatly from actual spider predators in their appearance, behavior, and diet:
- Mosquito hawks have extremely long legs and inflated bodies that make them resemble giant mosquitos. Despite this intimidating look, they are harmless.
- Spider wasps also have robust bodies and dark colors with bright markings. Their powerful stingers indicate dangerous predators.
- Jumping spiders and orbweavers are smaller with compact bodies. Jumping spiders often have bright patterns, while orbweavers have vividly colored and patterned abdomens.
- Mosquito hawks do not exhibit hunting behavior. They are docile and cannot bite or sting.
- Spider wasps actively hunt spiders to sting and paralyze as prey for their offspring. They drag spiders back to their nests.
- Jumping spiders stalk insects and spiders by sight before pouncing on them. Orbweavers construct elaborate webs to passively trap aerial prey.
- Mosquito hawks do not eat other creatures at any life stage. Larvae consume only decaying plant matter. Adults barely feed if at all.
- Spider wasps prey exclusively on spiders to provision their nests. Jumping spiders and orbweavers also hunt and eat spiders among other insects.
As evidenced by their contrasting features, mosquito hawks certainly do not belong among the spider-hunting creatures. Only wasps, jumping spiders, and orbweavers actually feed on spiders as part of their diet.
Given their intimidating legs and inflated bodies, there are some common misconceptions about mosquito hawks:
Myth: Mosquito hawks are venomous.
Fact: Mosquito hawks cannot sting or bite. They have no venom.
Myth: Mosquito hawks consume mosquitos.
Fact: They do not actually eat any insects including mosquitos.
Myth: Mosquito hawks capture spiders in their webs.
Fact: Mosquito hawks do not spin webs or trap prey of any kind.
Myth: Mosquito hawks are dangerous to humans.
Fact: Mosquito hawks are completely harmless to people. They have no means of biting, stinging, or transmitting disease.
The ferocious appearance of mosquito hawks leads to exaggerated myths about their supposed venom, risks, and spider-eating habits. In reality, they are benign insects that do not prey upon mosquitos, spiders, or any living creatures at all.
Hopefully this guide has cleared up these common misconceptions! While their long legs and looming shadows strike fear, these gentle giants are an important part of their ecosystems.
Importance to Ecosystems
Rather than being spider predators, mosquito hawks provide beneficial services to their environments:
- As larvae they recycle nutrients from decaying matter back into the soil, fertilizing plants.
- Their tunneling aerates the soil and allows oxygen to reach plant roots.
- They are food sources for birds, bats, and other predators, serving a vital role in food chains.
- Adults contribute to pollination when they sip nectar from flowers.
- Larvae feed on mosquito larvae in water, providing natural mosquito control.
So while mosquito hawks appear creepy, they are valuable contributors to their ecosystems. Their reputation as vicious spider eaters is wholly undeserved.
Mosquito hawks may look like spider-hunting predators, but they do not actually consume spiders or insects at any point in their life cycle.
As larvae, they eat only decaying plant matter. Adults barely feed if at all. They pose no threat to spiders, insects, or people. Only specialized wasps, jumping spiders, and orbweavers actively prey on other spiders.
Hopefully this guide has cleared up the misconceptions surrounding these gentle giants. While their long legs and swollen bodies may resemble a spider’s worst nightmare, mosquito hawks are harmless creatures that provide enormous benefits to their ecosystems.
So rest assured that these intimidating insects will not be swooping down to eat spiders! When you spot mosquito hawks dancing above meadows and marshes, appreciate them for their important ecological roles, not for their imagined ferocity.