Many of our gardeners are also avid fisherman and many may use insects as bait. Most often hand-made “flies” are used and customized by the savy fisherman. We’re going to dedicate this article about aquatic insects and arthropods… especially the Mayfly. April showers and warm days in May will show the arrival of Mayflies. Mayflies are in the Order Ephemeroptera. Ephemeros is Greek for a day or short-lived. Pteron means wing. A mayfly’s life cycle starts with the males forming a swarm above the water and the females flying into the swarm to mate. The male grabs a passing female with its elongated front legs and the pair mate in flight. After copulation, the male releases the female, which then descends to the surface of the water where she lays her eggs. Once mated she will fall, spent, onto the water surface to lie motionless, with her wings flat on the surface, where fish pick them off at their leisure. The male fly rarely returns to the water but instead he goes off to die on the nearby land.
The eggs fall to the bottom of the water where they stick to plants and stones. Flies of the Mayfly family Baetidae pull themselves under the water to attach their eggs directly to the bed before being drowned by the current. The Nymphs (naiiads) take anything between a few days to a number of weeks to hatch depending on water conditions and the species, and the resultant Nymphs (naiiads) will spend various lengths of time, up to two years, foraging on the bottom before emerging as an adult fly.
When it is time to emerge, the Nymphs (naiiads) make their way to the surface where they pull themselves free of their nymphal shuck and emerge as a sub-imago. While they rest here to dry their newly exposed wings, they are at their most vulnerable to attack from fish. The nymphal stage of this long-tail fly spends 364 days either dormant (winter time) underneath the muddy lake or stream bottom. Adults appear in large numbers in May. Trout, Bass and Bluegills will be waiting at the surface to feed on falling adult Mayflies or Nymphs (naiiads) coming to the surface to become adults. Some of their common names are spinners (adult mayfly), the winged pre-adult (subimago) is called a dun and many species have common names. If you want to see Mayfly Madness, check out this you tube click on a massive swarm of Mayflies. https://youtu.be/1r1wxLKhE2o
Mayflies have a double life. For most of it, they live inconspicuously on the water bottom. Then, in a spectacular display, they get wings, fly out of the water in what can be a colossal swarm. Adult mayflies are attracted to light, so their numbers are especially high near streetlights. That means they accumulate on the roads at intersections, and combined with the squishing afforded by passing vehicles, they can form greasy slicks. Picture smears of gray lard dotted with little wings. Or perhaps it’s better not to picture that. In some areas of the country they can be a driving hazard. “When people try to stop, there are so many mayflies on the road that cars have slid into one another,” Try explaining that fender bender to your insurance company. The total number of mayflies in this hatch are estimated to be around 18 trillion – more than 3,000 times the number of people on earth. In New Jersey these insects are considered relatively harmless but endlessly annoying. An annual May and June pest in areas near open water, hundreds of mayflies can be found hovering near ponds, streams, lakes, golf course water features and subdivision retention ponds. These spindly flying insects can become an intolerable nuisance near restaurants and outdoor dining areas. When swarming, hundreds of these insects may descend and cling to street lights, windows, signs, tables — nearly any surface.
To all you fisherman out there , good luck this year and pay attention to where Mayflies are abundant to help bring the fish to you!! Our Denville Garden is right next to the Rockaway River.. I’ll be looking for Mayflies this year.
Editor’s Note: William A. Kolbe, BCE is a Board Certified Entomologist for Viking Pest Control based out of Warren, NJ. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Entomology with a minor in Ecology from the University of Delaware. He is a member of The Denville NJ Community Gardens. He can be reached at 800-618-2847 or visit www.vikingpest.com