Park Alert...

Mayfly Madness

September 2020

By Ranger Amy

MayflyThe natural world is full of seasonal changes. At Martin Dies, Jr. State Park, every day and every season offers new experiences. Many campers and locals are familiar with one of those: mayfly season.

During the summertime a small insect called a mayfly will hatch out of the water and swarm. Mayflies can be annoying, but they’re an indicator of clean water and necessary to the survival of many animals.

Life cycle

A mayfly’s life begins in the water. They hatch from eggs and live as small, wiggly, work-like nymphs in the water for most of their life. They take shelter under leaves, in the mud, and among the roots of aquatic vegetation, eating water plants and algae.

When it’s time for them to morph into their adult form, they crawl out of the water onto the stalk of a plant, shed their skin and become a harmless flying insect.

On land, they will form massive mating swarms orientating towards the moon.

Mayfly nymphs cannot survive in polluted waters. Therefore, having them around indicates that our lake and river water is clean.  

Camping with mayflies

During mayfly season campers tell epic stories of mayflies ruining their dinner feasts by falling into their food. It only takes one of these experiences to learn to turn off bright lights and eat dinner in the tent.

Although mayfly swarms can be annoying in the present moment, these experiences can make a camping trip more memorable.

Bottom of the food chain

Mass of mayfliesMayflies themselves are often feasted upon by many other animals. Since they are small, soft, and helpless, they are on the bottom of the food chain.

During the day they will silently roost on trees. Sometimes they will be more abundant than the leaves.

If you sit under a tree covered in mayflies, you can witness different species of birds munching on them and dragonflies hunting them. You may even see squirrels shoving handfuls of mayflies into their mouths.

A welcome park resident!

If you ever visit the park and find swarms of mayflies, remember that they’re harmless and a welcome sight to the animals that survive by eating them. Rest easy when swimming and fishing in the park knowing that mayflies are an indicator of clean water.

As the summer season comes to an end let’s say goodbye to the mayfly and hello to the seasonal changes that fall will bring, including cooler weather.