So your here to learn about mayflies eh? You have come to the right place! Mayflies are interesting bugs, in my opinion it is the insect most fly fisherman think of when going out to fish with dry flies. Here are some basics.
Mayflies have two stages in their entire life cycle. The first is a stage of life is a larvae, where the insect lives in the water. For some its hard to wrap your mind around the fact that bugs live in the water, they do! The live and breath in an aquatic environment preparing for the day they can spread their wings and fly, literally. As a larval mayfly there are many varieties or “species” you will encounter in you fishy travels. Some are bulky like Ephemerellidae Drunella grandis (also known as a green drake), clinging to the rocks and crawling around to find food. Others are ultra flat such as Heptageniidae Rhithrogena, suctioning themselves to rocks trying not to get swept away by the current as they search for food. There are also mayflies who are built to swim like Baetidae know as baetis mayflies, they are able to swim within the water column in search for food and to escape predators. No matter the species there are common characteristics between all mayflies to identify them while on the river. The easiest way to identify mayflies quickly while out fishing is by the “tails”. There are three tails or cerci that come off the rear of the abdomen. Also as a general rule they are a smaller insect, smaller then stoneflies. As larval mayflies grow and develop they are growing wings inside a wing case , which can be seen on the insect. Once they develop to a certain point, it is time to hatch, or undergo a process of molting.
The second stage of life for a mayfly is an adult. This part of life is lived outside of water, also called a terrestrial life stage. After the hatching process the mayfly comes out of its aquatic environment with a beautiful pair of wings. You can identify an adult mayfly by its wing structure. The wings of these bugs go straight up into the air, perpendicular to the body of the mayfly. With a new set of wings, the insects set off to find a mate in hopes to reproduce so there can be other mayflies to replace them. The adult life stage of a mayfly is short, some adults loose the ability to even eat. Fishing when a mayflies are hatching is a thrill, there are so many bugs out you would think they might even carry you off in some places! Get out and try your luck fishing where mayflies roam! Good luck!
Hope this helps, comment below if you have questions or would like to learn more about mayflies, we are happy to oblige!