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Creepy-Crawly Mayflies

Mayfly - Photo  Copyright 2004 Gary Bradley Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
A great way to see all the details on these insects and other small creatures is with a special magnifier box - click here

Latin name: Ephemeroptera

Size: There are 51 species of mayfly in Britain, ranging in size from around 5mm to 2cm from head to base of tail.

Distribution: Found throughout the UK.

Months seen: May to September.

Habitat: Close to rivers, streams, ponds and lakes.

Food: Adults do not feed. The larvae eat aquatic plants and algae.

Special features: Mayflies can be recognised by their short antennae, and either two or three long tail filaments. Their wings are held vertically over their backs when resting. The hind wings are much smaller than the forewings.

The adult form of the mayfly, as seen in the photograph above is very short lived. Many species only live for one day!

The eggs of mayflies are laid underwater, and the nymphs which hatch from the eggs live for two years in the water. Then on a bright sunny day, normally between May and July (hence the name) the nymph emerges from the water, and the adult mayflies break out of their larval cases.

From this moment on, the mayflies have just hours to live. They quickly take to the air in a hurried search for mates. Once mated, the males die. The females lay their eggs in the water and then they die too.

Did You Know?
Mayflies used to be known as dayflies due to their short life cycle.  Also, their current name is due to the appearance of the adults at the same time as the Hawthorn blooms. The hawthorn was once called the 'mayflower'.

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UK Safari Creepy-Crawlies Section

  2009 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved