Amorous Mayflies Descend on Michigan: Here’s What You Need to Know

It’s that time of year again in Michigan when mayflies, those harmless yet slightly annoying insects, make their grand appearance. Michiganders can expect to see these swarming bugs in the coming weeks as they emerge in full force to find mates. Here’s what you need to know about this seasonal spectacle.

The Mayfly Invasion

Swarms of mayflies take over lakeside communities in Michigan every year. The most common species, the Hexagenia limbata or giant mayfly, dominate areas near lakes like Houghton, Burke, and Douglas, and in southern Michigan around Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. Residents in Monroe County have already spotted swarms around Luna Pier. These insects, also known as “fish flies” in some areas, typically emerge from late June to early July.

What Are Mayflies?

Mayflies are delicate insects resembling small dragonflies, ranging from a quarter inch to just over an inch long. With transparent wings, long tail filaments, and short antennae, they spend most of their lives as larvae in the water. After hatching, they live only about a day or two as adults.

Ann Miller, an aquatic biologist, explains that mayflies thrive in various water conditions, with their lifecycle lasting about a year in lakes but up to two years in colder river waters.

The Mayfly Mating Frenzy

Once mayflies emerge from the water, their sole focus is mating. Female mayflies lay up to 4,000 eggs on the water’s surface before their short adult life ends. These insects don’t eat as adults because they lack mouthparts and a digestive system. All their energy goes into finding a mate and reproducing.

Why Do They Swarm Around Lights?

Mayflies are drawn to light, often swarming around streetlights, gas stations, and grocery stores. Responding to this behavior, FirstEnergy Corp. is turning off streetlights in some Lake Erie communities to prevent mayflies from creating slick, hazardous surfaces with their carcasses.

After mating, mayflies die and pile up in large, smelly heaps, which can be quite slippery and unpleasant, especially when they crunch underfoot.

Are Mayflies Harmful?

Despite their overwhelming presence, mayflies are harmless to humans. They don’t sting or bite. The biggest inconvenience they cause is their sheer numbers and the mess they leave behind.

Other Insects to Watch Out For

While mayflies buzz around, other insects also make appearances. Stoneflies and caddisflies, which live short lives focused on mating, are seen in early spring. Unlike mayflies, mosquitoes are a familiar nuisance throughout the summer, capable of transmitting diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) advises taking precautions against mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.

Staying Informed and Prepared

In conclusion, while the mayfly season can be a bit of a nuisance, these insects play a crucial role in the ecosystem. Enjoy their brief appearance, take precautions against other more harmful insects, and appreciate the natural rhythms that bring these creatures into our lives each year.

Leave a Comment