About 150 species in North America. Seven tribes worldwide, six in North America.
Wing veins usually distinguish Tanypodinae from other Chironomidae. The unique feature is R2 branching off R1, as in this wing
In other Chironomidae R2 and R3 are fused into a single vein or absent. The presence of an M-Cu crossvein distinguishes Tanypodinae from the common families Chironominae and Orthocladiinae but is not unique. Some species of tribe Pentaneurini have shortened or missing R2 and R3. They can be distinguished from other subfamilies with an M-Cu crossvein by their hairy wings and, usually, costal vein not extended past last branch of R.
Unlike most Chironomidae, females of Tanypodinae have antennae with more than ten segments.
Larvae are distinguished from other Chironomidae by retractible antennae and details of structures on the bottom of the head. Typically they also have longer heads and prolegs and (except in Pentaneurini and Natarsia) a fringe of long hairs in a row along the sides of abdomen.
Most larvae are predators of small invertebrates, including other chironomids(1)