Ephemeroptera and the family Ephemieridae, which translates into "short-lived" and likely eludes to the very short lifespan of these insects.
How do we know if something is a
fly or merely called a fly? Here is an easy way to tell the difference,
if the name is all one word like Mayfly, Dobsonfly, Caddisfly,
Dragonfly, Damselfly, etc.. then it is definitely NOT a fly, but rather
belongs to some other order of insect. If the insect has a first and
last name like House Fly, Bot Fly, Flesh Fly, Flower Fly, Robber Fly,
Bee Fly....etc. Then it definitely IS a fly.
They are one of the most commonly seen insects at porch lights in early
summer or sometimes fall.
The species I see more often than any other
is the Burrowing Mayfly. They are also the largest species of mayfly in
Missouri, reaching lengths up to 1 1/2 inches. Most mayflies are found
in the Eastern United States, with only few species being found out
west. It is not uncommon to have dozens of these at porch light in June,
or in the case of this youtube video hundreds of thousands swarming a
pole. Check out this Mayfly emergence.
The Burrowing Mayfly, also known as the Golden Mayfly, is a beautiful
shade of golden-yellow with pale bands across their abdomen (pictured
below).As they age their coloring will become darker.
The lifecycle of a mayfly begins underwater as a nymph with seven pairs
of gills. They live in the bottom sediment of streams, slow moving
rivers, ponds and lakes. The nymphs feed on sediment, diatoms and
several species are predatory and feed on other aquatic insects. After
numerous molts (skin sheds), they will emerge approximately one year
after hatching in the water. The males typically appear first, as
subimago adults,meaning they are not completely formed adults yet, they
will shed their skin one more time before completing their lifecycle to
adulthood. These subimago's are a favorite food of trout and are often
used by fisherman as bait. Trout fishermen also use mayflies as a model
for the flies that they tie for bait. Mayflies are the only group of
insects to have this subimago stage into adulthood. As a subimago they
do not fly well, cannot reproduce and lack the coloring of the adult
form that would attract a mate. Within 24 hours after emerging they will
shed and become full fledged adults capable of breeding. Females emerge
shortly after males and also shed their skin for the final time. Mating
occurs within hours of emerging.
Time is of the essence, when you only live a day or two, or perhaps only
mere minutes (for some species) there is no time to waste on frivolity.
Soon after mating, the female will drop her eggs upstream in the water,
the current will softly carry the eggs downstream and deposit
them on the substrate in the bottom of the stream. If the eggs are laid
in lakes or ponds she will drop them wily-nily on top the water, and
the eggs sink to the bottom. In some parts of the world the emergence of
mayflies is a sight to behold, they all seem to appear at once in a
mass exodus. Millions of mayflies rising up out of the water in one
large swarm, landing on every available surface may seem like a nuisance
to many humans, but these little insects serve a major role in the
lifecycle of other species. Mayflies are not only consumed by trout and
other fish, but birds, frogs, toads, and other insect eating creatures
get in on the all-u-can-eat buffet of mayflies as well.
I am not sure of the species of this mayfly pictured below on the Sage,
but it is a beautiful shade of russet and is much smaller than the
Burrowing Mayfly at only 3/4 of an inch in length.