Wild Fact #658 – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow – Mayfly

Photo by Richard Bartz (Wikicommons)

It has been quite some time since we talked about the intriguing world of insects.  In fact, I can’t remember the last insect Wild Fact!  So today we are going to learn about the Mayfly.  There are about 2500 species of Mayflies and 630 different species just in North America.  You may know these little insects as shadflies, fishflies, jinx fly or midgee.  No matter what you call them though, they are all still Mayflies.

The Mayfly is part of an ancient group of insects called Paleoptera which also includes dragonflies and damselfies.  Now this group isn’t as special as, let’s say the Knights Templar, but I think it is pretty impressive nonetheless.  I also think they are lucky to be part of an ancient group.  The only group I have been apart of is the Boy Scouts.

These Shadflies are medium-sized insects which get the honour of being one of the most short-lived animals in the world.  Not exactly the designation I would want to have.  To be more clear it is only the adults that have such a short life-span.  The immature stage of the Mayfly (called the “Naiad”) usually spends a year or so in the aquatic environment where the majority of species feed on algae or diatoms.  Some species are predatory and will feast on other crustaceans.  When the time is right the Mayfly will emerge from their stream or lake beds.  In temperate areas they will typically emerge at dusk, however, they will occasionally wait until dawn before emerging.

Mayflies Covering a Truck in North Bay, ON

After they have emerged from their watery home and are now in the adult form, their life becomes very simple.  Find a partner and mate!  That is their only purpose in life once they reach that adult stage.  Their mouth parts are vestigial (a fancy way of saying they have no function and are just for show) and their digestive systems are filled with air.  The lifespan of the adult Mayfly can last anywhere between 30 minutes to one day depending on the individual species.  Am I ever glad humans didn’t follow that life-cycle!

Mayfly Fast Fact – Most Mayfly species spend their immature life in streams and rivers; however, there are few that prefer the lake bed.  When these lake dwellers emerge, they typically emerge in great numbers.  Believe it or not the Doppler Weather Radar actually picked up a group of Mayflies emerging out of Lake Eerie one year.   For my Northern Ontario readers, I am almost positive this is why their can be numerous shadflies in the North Bay area as they are probably all emerging from Lake Nipissing.  For my non-Northern Ontario readers – North Bay has had some pretty bad years for Mayflies where the roads were actually shimmering due to the number of insects.  Pretty crazy, right?

Well that does it for today’s insect Wild Fact.  I will see you all tomorrow.

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