Country diary: autumn brings the daddy longlegs bouncing in

Country diary: autumn brings the daddy longlegs bouncing in

Langstone, Hampshire: Blundering craneflies are vulnerable to spiders’ webs. But they have a special gift at their disposal

The arrival of autumn heralds the annual cranefly emergence. There are more than 300 species found in the UK, but Tipula paludosa is the most common. As dusk falls and I turn on the lights, they flit around the glowing windows, the unwary snared by the orb-weaver and false widow spiders that have slung their webs across the glass. Those that make it inside the house blunder from corner to corner, bouncing off the walls and ceiling.

Capture and release is a delicate operation, as the gangly insects have what are known as deciduous legs – they detach from the body at the slightest touch. The six spindly appendages, which give them the nickname “daddy longlegs”, stabilise the cranefly’s elongated, slender body during flight and egg-laying, and provide sensory input to help them navigate their environment, but the ability to sacrifice a limb allows them the opportunity to escape the grasp of a predator.

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