Our outhouse is open at the front, and it faces deeply shaded sugar maple woods. The dancers — two or three dozen of them — each have six long, spindly legs. They jitterbug up and down and forward and back in a dark corner just under the roof, and they are worked up to a frenetic speed. Undoubtedly they are expert performers. They ought to be. They've probably been doing one or another version of their act for more than 225 million years, since the Triassic period. And indeed, their performance doesn't disappoint.Crane flies are relatives of mosquitoes. They are called crane flies because their legs are so long. Heinrich says that their bodies are 1/3 of an inch long yet their legs are three times longer (1 inch). And if you touch a leg, it could fall off. Dropping legs is a defense against predators. The sexes can be differentiated by the ends of their abdomens. A thicker, pointed abdomen is female and a thinner, blunted abdomen is a male.
Most of the dancers are single, but several have partners to whom they are firmly attached — by their genitals. The members of a pair face in opposite directions, and when — more often than the singles — they come to rest, they dangle with one holding on to the ceiling with its front legs while the other dangles below.
The summer dance that Heinrich describes is mostly performed by the boys. Once a boy attracks a girl with his dance, they mate (my first photo) and then they stay together for hours. In his sample, Heinrich's male crane flies outnumbered females by 28:2.
I would so enjoy reading other local observations from other Summer World readers. I will have a couple more of my local observations in the days to come. Meanwhile, click on the book below and read it!
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