A Bug By Any Other Name

Growing up on the east side of Detroit, we called them June Bugs. Steve grew up in the same neighborhood and he called them Mayflies. According to Wikipedia, these guys have a boatload of aliases. Fishfly, Dayfly, Shadfly, Green Bay fly, Lake fly, Jinx fly. They are members of the order Ephemeropter.  Same Greek root as ephemeral.  Short-lived.

What we see is just the end, and a very brief end, of a much longer life.  In their immature naiad stage, these bugs can live up to four years in stream beds and lake bottoms. They look more like beetles during that phase. Some species transition through up to twenty moults. When the time is right to hatch and mate, they are often launched airborn in a rising bubble of air. Actually, lots of rising bubbles of air. The hatch can be very impressive. Reports are that a hatch on Lake Erie once showed up on Doppler Radar.

Once hatched, Mayflies mate quickly and on the fly. Both male and female are doubly endowed when it comes to their mating paraphernalia. The male dies straight away. Females may live a day or so. Once they emerge from the water, with their skinny segmented bodies and delicate veined wings, they’re done with eating. Their digestive system is filled with air. That makes them light enough to float.Their mouths are just vestigial.

A prolific hatch is sometimes taken as a sign of the general health of a river or lake. Long Lake must be pretty healthy. They arrived yesterday in great numbers. The Purple Martin are gonna have major tummy aches tomorrow because they’ve been buzzing around all day eating their fill. They’ve even been swooping in to pluck them off our dock. Hundreds of the bugs are clinging all over our lake house. In the morning, our walk to the water will be very crunchy.

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