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Mayflies Facts, Diet, Habitat & Behaviour

Mayflies facts and knowledge. Know Mayflies food plan, habitat, behaviour taxonomy, and many others See attention-grabbing facts of Mayflies in our animal facts archive.

Physical traits

Mayflies physique measurement ranges from very small (0.04 in, or 1 mm) to giant (3.2 in, or 80 mm). Adults are of various colours—white, yellow, pink, or black—typically with hyaline wings. Males typically are svelte, with the stomach virtually utterly stuffed with air. The forelegs are at all times practical and really lengthy. In females the physique is extra strong and stout, with the stomach and a part of the thorax stuffed with eggs. The hind wings might be absent, however when they're current, they at all times are smaller than the forewings. In some teams (e.g., Polymitarcyidae) the grownup legs are nonfunctional apart from the primary pair on the male; some leg segments could even be misplaced (e.g., the American genus Campsurus). The caudal filaments (two or three) are at all times current and are longer in males. While the general look of the adults is remarkably commonplace, the larvae possess all kinds of physique shapes, starting from depressed and shield-like among the many swirl present dwellers to lengthy and cylindrical amongst secluded tunnel inhabitants or spindle-like within the free-swimming varieties. A singular attribute of Ephemeroptera is the presence of an additional winged stage, known as the “subimago.” It is analogous to the grownup stage, or imago, however the coloration is duller, the physique extra strong, and the wings often smoky. This additional stage permits for the dramatic elongation of some components of the physique (male legs and genitalia). They are coated with waterrepellent microhairs, that are essential in permitting them to move from the aquatic medium to the air.

Evolution and systematics

The scientific identify of the order refers to the brief lifetime of the grownup, or winged state. The English widespread identify is related to the month of May, when adults emerge extra incessantly within the Northern Hemisphere. The members of this order seem to be probably the most primitive of the extant flying bugs. Fossil representatives that may be assigned to Ephemeroptera are identified from the Upper Carboniferous, with a few of the extinct teams ( Bojophlebia prokopi ) reaching gigantic sizes (a wingspan of up to 18 in, or 45 cm). Permian species had aquatic larvae, however in contrast to extant species, adults had practical mouthparts and pairs of wings of just about equal measurement. The relationships of Ephemeroptera with different insect orders are nonetheless the topic of controversy. While some authors preserve that this order is said extra intently to the dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata), forming the group Palaeoptera, others think about the Ephemeroptera basal to the opposite winged insect orders. The increased classification of the order can also be questionable, with differing classifications on the suborder and superfamily ranges. There are about 40 acknowledged fossil and extant households.


Cosmopolitan, besides Antarctica, the acute Arctic, and some small oceanic islands.


The larvae inhabit all kinds of our bodies of water, from swiftly working streams excessive within the mountains to lowland rivers, ponds, and lakes. Many stay beneath rocks or particles, whereas others burrow in residing or decaying plant tissues or the clay bottoms of rivers and lakes. Others swim freely in small ponds, and some stay within the movie shaped by water seepage. While most species are delicate to air pollution, some can tolerate a sure stage of contamination of their habitat. For instance, some species of the genera Callibaetis and Baetis (Baetidae) can tolerate excessive contents of natural matter and comparatively low oxygen, whereas some species of Caenis (Caenidae) can stand sure excessive ranges of suspended sediments. The adults, which usually are weak fliers, keep shut to the water, the place immature bugs stay.


Most larvae disguise through the day to keep away from predation, however some swim freely right now. Some species are gregarious, particularly those who stay in restricted patchy environments, however no social construction is thought. Adults spend a lot of the day resting within the shade of vegetation shut to the water, till swarming time, at which level they fly actively.

Feeding ecology and food plan

Mayflies feed solely as larvae; mouthparts and the digestive system are atrophied in adults. Most larvae are detritivores or herbivores, however a number of are predators. Some modifications of mouthparts or forelegs or each happen in some species of Oligoneuriidae and Polymitarcyidae that filter food. Larvae of species residing in tunnels filter food from the water present that's produced by the lively motion of the belly gills. Mayflies are essential parts of the food chain; fish, birds, and invertebrates eat each adults and larvae. These bugs are common with fly fishermen, who tie flies to imitate sure species of larvae and adults and time their fishing to emergence patterns for finest outcomes.

Reproductive biology

The mating flight, or “swarm,” of the male imagoes is among the distinctive options of the order. The swarm time, location, flight sample, and variety of people collaborating are particular to every species. Some swarms are composed of some males and others by a whole lot of hundreds. The feminine flies above the swarm and is taken by a male from beneath, utilizing his lengthy forelegs. Shortly after copulation the feminine deposits eggs within the water. The feminine can carry 100 to 12,000 eggs. Egg growth ranges from one week to a 12 months and the larval interval from three weeks to three years.

Conservation standing

Some species have a restricted distribution and strict ecological tolerance and are extra endangered than are the extensively distributed species. The principal causes for inhabitants decline are habitat degradation by air pollution, deforestation of river margins, dam building, and introduction of unique fish. Two mayfly species are listed as Extinct and one as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

Significance to people

The larvae, as major customers, filter and take away giant quantities of vitamins from the water and are essential as food for different aquatic organisms. Owing to their sensitivity to contaminants, mayflies are used as bioindicators of water high quality. The winged stage facilitates nutrient and power exportation from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems. A number of larvae burrow in wood constructions, and when some species that kind large swarms are attracted to city lights, they trigger allergy-related Challenges for some people.