Mayflies a Day in the Life

There are over two thousand species of mayflies they are found through out the world, wherever a source of “good quality” fresh water can be found.

Mayflies are the oldest living winged insect. While there lifespan is relatively short some only living for an hour and some mayflies may live for two weeks. The average lifespan is two hours. The Nymphs (mayfly larvae) is another name for a species can live up to three years.


Mayflies are small winged insects; they have soft bodies and two sets of wings, one pair of which is “hidden”. They have an antenna that acts as a guide. While each species is slightly different in appearance and body make-up one can still easily recognize a mayfly.


The primary function of the female mayfly is to lay eggs, which she will do in one of two ways either she will skim the surface of the water and lay all her eggs at once or she will “dip her stomach in the water and lay a few eggs at a time. The second is the most common method they use to lay the eggs.

Depending on the species the female will lay as many as three hundred to ten thousand eggs can be laid. The eggs can hatch immediately or over a course of a year depending on the environment they are laid in.


The purpose of the male mayfly is to mate with the female mayfly and keep the population going. The males all swarm together and a female will pick a mate.


Have the longest lifespan of up to three years, most likely because they in the vegetation in the water and are not as likely to become a meal with the over abundance of mayflies just above the water and in the water.


The mayflies short life in not in vain, they provide a source of food for many other insects and animals. The fish (mainly the trout and catfish) particularly like to dine on the mayfly.

In return the mayfly gets its food source form the vegetation. It’s a perfect example of the food web at work.

Being the oldest known winged insect, dating to the Carboniferous and Permian times it doesn’t appear there will be any problems with its decline in population anytime in the for seeable future.