Length: males 15-20 mm, females 18-27 mm
Tipula ultima is on the wing in September and October. Its range extends from Saskatchewan to Newfoundland, south to Florida and Louisiana, and west to Oklahoma and Wyoming.
Taber (2009) suggests that this species is associated with dying bracken ferns (Pteridium aquilinum), and that it is cryptically protected by its resemblance to the fern in color. Also, the wing shape of the fly matches closely the shape of an individual lobe on a frond of bracken.
Look for Tipula ultima in woodlands and forest edges. The species is also attracted to lights.
Gelhaus reports that the larvae have been collected from a variety of damp habitats near streams (Gelhaus, 1986).
Dr. Chen Young (1981) reports collecting 60 larvae at a Kansas location:
"They were found in saturated, organic mud in a shaded seepage area. Larvae were found at the surface or only a few mm beneath it, with their spiracular discs open to the air above them. They moved freely through the wet soil. These larvae were 18-25 mm in length and about 3 mm in breadth."
Young reported that the larvae grew to 36-41 mm in length in the laboratory and then prepared for pupation by moving to drier soil. Several centimeters below the soil the larvae became inactive for about seven weeks, then moved to a vertical position just under the surface of the soil and pupated. The pupae measured 23-30 mm, with the female pupae invariably larger than the male pupae. The pupal stage lasted about eight days, with males emerging a couple of days ahead of the females.
Nocturnal mating followed emergence, and ovipositing came five days after mating. The female laid about 150 eggs a few mm below the surface in sandy soil.
Insects of West Virginia