Wondered what they are? Screeched when one flew near you because you thought it might bite you? Well, fear not. This leggy, mosquito-looking thing is not a mosquito, nor will it bite or sting you. This is a crane fly, which is a type of Dipteran, or two-winged fly.
If you look at this picture, you'll notice two little protrusions right below the wings. They look like sticks with little knobs on the ends. These are called halteres, which are what balancing organs. These help the crane fly balance in flight. As with many other insects, when you see a fly like this, it is nearing the end of its life. Most of a crane fly's life is spent in a larval stage, eating plants. When they become adults, they eat very little - nectar (not blood!), or nothing at all. Their main goal as adults is to mate before they die. The pointy part at the very end of the abdomen is the ovipositor, which is how females distribute their eggs.
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there have been many more of these around than usual this year. I suspect that it is due to all of the rain we had a few weeks ago - perhaps that helped create an environment ideal for crane flies. All crane fly larvae live in water environments, and in fact have gills at their rear-ends. Here is a video of a crane fly larva:
So, if you notice the adults, don't be alarmed. They look a little creepy, I suppose, but they won't hurt you in the least. You could even catch one if you're feeling brave, and see if you can gently find the halteres, and whether or not it has an ovipositor.
Happy Friday, everyone!