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These photographs were taken today in Marseille, in the Mediterranean coast of France. My French friends inform me that these beasties are called cousins because they are "cousins" of mosquitoes (whatever that means).

The thing is, we are absolutely infested by them. They seem to be more active at dawn and dusk (like mosquitoes) but we have dozens flying around the house every evening. I would like to know the species' name to see if I can learn anything about them. Do they have cycles like cicadas? Are they linked to stagnant waters like mosquitoes? Why are there so many of them this year?

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Here's one with my hand next to it to give you an indication of their size:

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Some kind of crane fly (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crane_fly) –  kmm Jun 2 '13 at 18:46
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I agree it must be a Tipulidae. I also call them "cousins" in French, or "tipules". I think their larvae live in the soil, not in stagnant water. I'd bet their abundance could be related to the anormally long "winter". –  bli Jun 3 '13 at 5:55
    
i have also seen this guy roaming around in mosquito hiding places.. i used to think that it is a mutated mosquito :P –  WYSIWYG Jun 3 '13 at 9:42

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is indeed a Crane fly, superfamily Tipuloidea, which is part of two-winged insects (Diptera). There are >15000 species worldwide. Their systematics is somewhat uncertain (used to be a single family, now a superfamily). They are placed in the same suborder as mosquitoes (Nematocera). The adults feed on nectar or not at all (they do not prey on mosquitoes), and the larvae usually feeds on litter, roots, fungi etc, but some aquatic species are predatory. Larvae of some species develop in soil and others in water. Adults of many species are attracted by light, which is why you often find them inside houses. I dont know why you find so many this year where you live, but winter conditions affecting survival is a possible explanation.

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In many areas of the United States the predatory versions that prey on mosquito larvae are purposefully bred and introduced in large numbers as a non-chemical method of mosquito control. Since the predatory versions don't prey on much else (and do not prey on anything as adults) they're found in large numbers in the Summer, but are otherwise harmless. Perhaps the French government did something similar? –  MCM Jun 3 '13 at 15:19
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Didn't know that they were used as biocontrol. In the US, some introduced species are also consided pests, e.g. the European crane fly (pdf) –  fileunderwater Jun 5 '13 at 7:49

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