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BrownCounty, WI
6 February 2001
Gary Fewless, Cofrin Arboretum Center for Biodiversity
Olympus CL 2500L digital camera

Snow Crane Fly (Chionea sp.)

Only a few hardy insects can remain active during the winter, moving about to feed and even to reproduce. One such hardy animal is the snow crane fly (Tipulidae: Chionea sp.). Snow crane flies spend most of their time in the space between the soil surface and the snow, which acts as an insulating blanket. Temperatures underneath the snow often remain close to freezing, even when the air temperature above plummets below zero. When the surface temperature is above freezing, these spider-like flies can be seen wandering about on the snow's surface searching for food, a mate, or spots to lay eggs. This fly was found on the ski trail at Neshota Park. Not only is this fly winter active it does not fly. These "wingless" species actually do have tiny non-functional wings. All the wingless species are winter-active, and it is assumed that wings are a disadvantage for locomotion within the snow. Winter is indeed a tough time to be an active animal, but those that can adapt to such a lifestyle probably encounter fewer competitors for resources and fewer predators, parasites, and diseases.

The crane fly family (Tipulidae) contains more species than any other family of flies. Most of them are winged (like the crane fly shown at left in the large photo--30K), and often resemble large mosquitoes, though they do not bite humans. Many crane flies, including Chionea, live in soil (feeding on decaying material) as larvae.

Contributed by Michael L. Draney, UW-Green Bay

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Last updated on May 9, 2014