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The brief and fragile life of the Mayfly

Posted in Insects, Nature, Wildlife on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

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This edited article about insects first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

Girl and May flies,  picture, image, illustration

Girl being pulled through the water by accurately painted May flies

Enormous numbers of Mayflies can be seen swarming over the rivers and streams at this time of the year. The eggs are laid in the water and the young “nymphs” which hatch from them spend as long as four years under the water feeding on vegetable matter.

When fully grown, the nymph crawls out of the water on to a reed stem or stone. Then, its skin splits open and a winged insect, called a sub-imago, crawls out. After some time, it moults again and the perfect Mayfly emerges.

Its first instinct is to find a mate. Once this has been accomplished, after about a day or sometimes only a few hours, it falls into the water and drowns or is eaten by a fish. Meanwhile, its mate lays her eggs and the strange life cycle begins again.

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