Order Ephemeroptera: The Mayflies

We have previously tackled all the things about terrestrial insects. How their eggs, nymphs and adult forms can thrive in narrow holes and even those insects that can live inside our very homes. However, like any other complex traits of each creature under Kingdom Animalia, not all of them solely live in dry lands throughout their whole life. Like for example, the insects under the order Ephemeroptera. They may have died on land, but they emerged from clean, flowing bodies of water.

The Mayflies

Mayflies are the common name of insects under the order Ephemeroptera. The name Ephemeroptera comes from “ephemera”, a Greek word for short-lived and “ptera” that means wings. Again, like any other insects in kingdom Animalia, their name originated from their unique characteristics.


What do Mayflies Look Like?

The bodies of insects under Ephemeroptera are usually elongated. Biology can explain why they have such structure by stating their ancenstors. It was found out that mayflies’ are considered to be a far-flung relative of order Palaeoptera. This is also why their appearance greatly mirrors the physical look of dragonflies. Dragonflies belong to the Palaeopteras and under them are the Ephemeroptera.

Mayflies as Hemimetabolous Insect

Almost all arthropods who undergo metamorphosis get through it completely; but mayflies are the few exceptions from this. Of course, they get to be hatched as an egg and grow into nymphs, but there is this certain phase of their lives where they still moult in spite of the presence of their wings. Yes, this happens! Mayflies that undergo this stage are called the subimago, where they still shed their outermost skin even after having a pair of fully-functioning wings.

mayfly in spring

How Mayflies Reproduce

Ephemeropterans have their unique way of courtship and reproduction. The male and the female mayflies usually swarm on the surface of rivers and seas to look for a possible mate. Mayflies’ mating happens up in the air. A male mayfly holds the female mate’s thorax by their front legs, and they start to copulate. It is important to know that each mayfly have two genitals; two penises for the male and two vaginas for the female. The moment they come in contact with each other, these organs facilitate the copulation.

All though most mayflies need fertilization to reproduce, there are some who are capable of parthenogenesis. Some of their kinds are all female but they still survive and reproduce.

Eating Habits

Adult mayflies, which are called imago, do not eat for their stomachs, by the time they reach maturity, are filled with air so they could be weightless and be able to fly. However, the subimago, leave the waters and literally transfer to a place with a greener pasture. Subimagos are mostly herbivorous while other prey on even smaller insects.

Imagos Are Short-Lived

As stated earlier, mayflies do eat until they reach adulthood. By the time the male mayflies and female mayflies reproduce and lay 400-3000 eggs underwater, they eventually die of starvation. But this is only plausible for imagos since subimagos can exist for over four years and moult for about 15-20 times. By the time they become imagos, that is when they will start counting their last days.

Mayflies as Fishing Bait

Ephemeroptera’s existence has paved a lot of ways for human beings. For fishermen, in particular, they use subimagos as fish bait. It is known that during this stage of their lives, their predators and fishes would be glad to have them as their meal.

Mayflies are truly spectacular. It is as if, the more you seek to get to know it better, the more exciting information and discoveries unfold. Insects are indeed full of wonders no matter how small they are.

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