Mayfly Life Cycle

Residing on our planet Earth for billions of years and at least a 100 million years before the dinosaurs, mayflies are the most primitive insects which have been living among us since the advent of human life. There are over 3000 types of mayflies which live today and are the only living creatures which still exhibit two stages of adulthood. 

Mayflies belong to the order Ephemeroptera, an order characterised by extremely short lifespans and abundantly reproducing in large numbers during the summer months.

Mayflies have tiny antennas, non-existent digestive systems and compound eyes, like all other flies. May fly life span, like that of other Ephemeroptera insects, is very brief and their lifecycle is an extremely interesting area of study at present. Mayflies have a degree of pre-historic characteristics which almost all newer organisms, those we encounter in our daily lives, lack.

Now that you know what mayflies are let's have a small quiz and then, we move on to describe more about their lifecycle.

Pop Quiz 1

1. Since how Many Years Before the Dinosaurs Were Mayflies Present on Earth?

     a. 100 million years. 

     b. 100 years. 

     c. Mayflies came much later than dinosaurs.

Different Stages of Mayfly Life Cycle

Owing to their very short may fly life span, many scientists have concluded that unlike other organisms, the reason mayflies show two entirely different forms of adulthood is because of their primitiveness and their inability to transform from an egg to a sexually active adult directly in one go. 

1. The Egg Stage

During mating season, above water bodies, male mayflies are seen to form swarms, where their female counterparts fly in and mate. A male mayfly randomly catches a flying female using their long legs and mate while flying.

Afterwards, the male releases the female mayfly on the water surface, where the female lays her eggs and spends her remaining life on the surface motionless, usually eaten up by fishes. The male mayflies most usually reach the nearest land and die.

The eggs then drown under the water and remain attached to stones and plants, waiting to hatch. 

2. The Nymph Stage

The length of the nymph stage in a mayfly life cycle can vary between a few weeks to a couple of years, usually depending on various factors like their own species and external conditions like air and water. During this whole length of time, the nymphs typically roam around the bottom of water bodies, before they enter the next stage.

3. The Adult Stage

When it is time for emergence, the nymphs travel back to the water surface, shed their nymphal sack, develop short wings and transform themselves into a form known as sub-imago or dun. Sub-imago mayflies usually keep floating on the water surface and are extremely vulnerable to fishes and other aquatic animals who are looking out for food. 

The sub-imago’s dry their wings and shed their skin one last time to give way to their last stage of life cycle, the imago. The imagos are the adult variant of mayflies, a stage when they are sexually active. Imagos or adult mayflies then follow the same life cycle which birthed them and die shortly after their mating process is over. 

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Life Cycle of a Mayfly

Pop Quiz 2 

1. Which Variant of Mayflies are Termed as Imagos?

     a. Adults.

     b. Nymphs.

     c. Eggs.

Did You Know? 

A particular species of mayflies called Hexagania limbata, found mostly in North America, gives birth to around 18 trillion mayflies every year, which is 3000 times the total number of humans on Earth. These mayflies are attracted to lights in nearby towns and villages, and exclusive snowmobiles are deployed to tow away these insects.

On the other hand, the African people combine a species of mayfly called Povilla adusta with Chironomid midges to make a special patty called Kungu, which serves an essential part of their diet.

To learn more about the mayfly life cycle, refer to our comprehensive study materials and revision notes available in PDF for free. Download the Vedantu app today and get access to free live demo classes and much more.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Reason Behind a Concise Mayfly Life Cycle?

Ans. This is mostly because adult mayflies or imagos have no digestive system, and hence, they do not consume anything during the time they live. Their only aim is to mate, and as soon as the mating process is over, they die.

2. How to Get Rid of Mayfly Infestation?

Ans. Brooming is one significant way to get rid of infestation at your homes. Many countries also use different specially made vehicles to carry away the corpses after they die.

3. What do Mayflies Eat?

Ans. Adult mayflies do not eat anything during may fly life span. Their nymph variants rely on algae found on plants and rocks.