A Dancing Crane Fly

by Carl Strang

A rich diversity of healthy wild lands means that no matter how old one may get, there always will be something new to see. Last week I watched the oviposition dance of a female crane fly.

She kept her 6 long, spindly legs firmly planted in a wide stance as she bounced up and down, bending her abdomen in different ways and touching its tip to the wet mud.

It is my understanding that crane fly taxonomy is hideous, and so I did not try to identify her.

The wings had a beautiful pattern of white, brown and transparent areas.

I assumed that this was oviposition. I didn’t see any eggs. The location was close to the edge of the stream corridor marsh at Mayslake Forest Preserve, which has benefited greatly from the efforts of Mayslake’s volunteer restoration team. Such bouncing against mud just above the water line is reminiscent of obvious egg-laying by autumn meadowhawk (dragonfly) tandem pairs in the fall. This egg placement takes advantage of later spring rains that will lift the water level to inundate that bit of mud.

She was bouncing away when I first saw her, and continuing after I left. If each bounce deposited an egg, there were dozens left in just a square inch or so.

This rewarding observation was a reminder that it’s important to look up, down, all around and in all scales of magnitude if one is to experience the fullness of a wild place and its diverse life.

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