The kids and I were coming home on a particularly balmy Friday evening last week and drove into what looked like a scene from a horror movie. As we crossed the bridge into town, we noticed a dense fog ahead. As we got closer, the fog seemed to dance…it was alive and all of a sudden it engulfed our van. What appeared to be a supernatural weather event, was in fact an enormous Mayfly swarm!
Mayflys are harmless winged insects which actually spend the majority of their lives on the bottom of lakes and rivers feeding on algae. Then, as if on a timer, they grow wings, emerge, and swarm together. In a matter of a few days they will molt (shed their skin), mate, then lay eggs and die. We were lucky enough to stumble across this incredible display of nature, so of course we had to stop and check it out!
Some of my local folks may have actually been down at riverfront park enjoying movie night, so you probably experienced this first hand. We parked behind a vehicle which was directly underneath a street light and was absolutely covered in mayflys! They were definitely attracted to light. I was in awe at the sheer number of insects. The sound of thousands of wings was incredible. There was also a notable “crunch” as cars ran them over.
Evan and I decided to get a closer look and wandered underneath some of the lights. We were immediately covered in mayflys. It is definitely not a feeling for the squeamish. I fought back a slight panic as they began flying down my shirt and up my shorts. I have heard that if you are lucky, you may actually have one land on you and molt, leaving behind a perfect shadow of its former self.
It’s kind of beautiful and sad if you think about it. These creatures, as well as many other animals, basically live for one purpose, reproduction. It reminds me of the Salmon run. Animals so driven by a primal instinct to perpetuate their species, knowing that they may never even reach their goal, but pushing forward nonetheless.
Mayfly swarms, or hatches as they are often called, are a good sign; they are an indicator that despite what I may think, our river is actually pretty clean and the eco system is healthy. I feel honored to have witnessed such a miracle of nature, thankful that I was able to share such wonder with the kids, and hopeful that the mayflys will be around to invade our shores for years to come.
Until next time, happy herping ya’ll!