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MAYFLY FACTS

 
junebug1   What's in a Name?

They are known by several names - Junebug, Mayfly, Canadian Soldier, Fish Fly... and a few others that I will not print here due to... well... this is a family show, folks. Their official scientific name is 'Hexagenia'.

There has been some confusion with some fine people from New York thinking we were referring to their 'june bug' which, best as we can understand from their descriptions, is a type of beetle. I will call them mayflies here as that name does not seem to be taken and mayflies are nothing like a beetle.


  Mayfly Video
 

Cleveland's own Fox photojournalist Ali Ghanbari offered to let me link to this video segment he shot on the mayflies. If you've never seen the mayfly invasion in person, this give you a very good idea of what it looks like.

This video was shot on Kelly's Island, a beautiful island north of Sandusky, Ohio and just east of South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay). Kelley's Island offers some of Lake Erie's finest natural highlights. In addition to the Indian Rock and the butterfly house, the Glacial Grooves are worth the trip, alone.

But Kelley's is also host to mayflies and as Ali Ghanbari finds out, not all the residents welcome our wonderful little guests!

Contact Ali Ghanbari agtvphotog97@hotmail.com

 

 

junebug3   History Lesson

The return of the friendly mayfly is attributed to Lake Erie being its cleanest in years. Part of this may very well be due to the arrival of the Zebra Mussels from Europe. The zebra mussel was brought to Lake Erie in ballast water dumped from ocean freighters. These minature clam looking things have raised havok in every possible way on anything related to the lake. The one positive thing they have done is clean up the water.

My mother could remember being a little girl growing up in Sandusky, Ohio in the 1930's (before the days of great pollution) and watching the mayflies swarm into town. Cars would slide on the piles of mayflies in the street and cause accidents. From what I have read and heard from the old timers, we are not at the point it was before Lake Erie was polluted, but, if mayfly populations keep improving, I believe we'll get to that point again. Port Clinton now posts signs at several entrances to the city warning of slippery road conditions due to the mayfly hatch.

Mayflies and Lamps

A sight that probably hasn't been seen since the early 1900's - a mayfly that snuck into my house and was attracted to the light from my Aladdin Model 11 kerosene lamp. Time to get out the bug screen!

To learn more about Aladdin Lamps (which are still made today along with parts for your old ones), visit these sites:

Aladdin Mantle Lamp Co.

Aladdin Knights of the Mystic Light

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OhioWines.net - Your Ohio Winery Connection

Shedding caught on FILM!!!!

These remarkable pics were taken in Port Clinton about mid June 1999. They show the shedding, or molting, process that many mayflies undergo. After I remembered what the bugs do just before shedding, it was easier to find one. What is that, you ask? Normally june bugs keep their wings up and together and their bodies arched proudly back with their two front legs up and together. When they are ready to shed, they get a firm grip with all six legs (they also do that in windy conditions - like on your car windshield at 40 mph) and spread their wings out flat against whatever they happen to be hanging on to. You can literally watch them crawl out of their skin. The process usually takes about 5 minutes. After they molt, I see no visible difference. They look exactly the same as before.

Sometimes, if their grip wasn't good enough, the legs will let go and they will be caught half in and half out with no way to pull themselves out of the skin. They usually get out, though and what is left is a white shell that weighs almost nothing and come floating down like snowflakes when the wind blows them off whatever they're attached to. You can find thousands of skins in the grass or on the edge of sidewalks where the wind blows them into piles.


shed1 shed2 shed3
Just gettin' started 'PULL!!!' 'PULL!!!'
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Almost there A little more Ahhhhhh!
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Whoa... better get a grip Hangin' on Gettin' the rear out
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Pullin' the tail out Free at last!

quarter1   Mayfly Varieties

Mayfly bodies measure about one inch long and tails range from 1/2 to 3 inches in length. Color and size vary, but there appears to this reporter to be two main types, or species, of mayflies in this area. The larger variety have thicker bodies with a yellowish golden color. They normally have shorter tails (sometimes forked in a V shape) but the tail may be longer after they shed.

The other variety have smaller, very dark, bodies and longer tails.

This photo shows a side by side comparison of a golden variety (foreground) and the smaller longtail. Mayflies are always more than happy to pose for photos.



Swarms of Mayflies
In the evening sky, you can see them swarming... well, not swarming... just flying around like crazy. They're not the greatest flyers, but they do well enough to get around. I watched one behind the house one afternoon out of the breeze where he could fly without getting blown. He would fly up to the height of the house peak then spread his wings and glide back down to about ten feet above the ground. Then flutter back up... and glide back down. He did this for about ten minutes until he flew away out of sight.

Mayflies are more plentiful on odd number years. The Mayflies plan for this... no, just kidding. 1998 was a light year and 1999 turned out to be a bumper crop of June Bugs!! The city turned out all street lights within 1 block of the lake. This doesn't help much as every night you can watch them fill the air at dusk. I was again reminded of the locust plague mentioned in the Bible. It's quite a site.
       
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Mayfly Swarm Pics

On the evening of June 22nd last year, the sun had set and mayflies filled the skies around Port Clinton. I attempted to capture them on camera. These pics give you a fairly good idea what it looked like. Just click on the pics at left. The pics will open in a separate browser or tab. Simply close the browser when you're done looking to return here.

Every black speck you see against the blue sky is a mayfly in flight.



Touchy Critters
According to the Department of Entomology at Purdue University, mayflies constitute one of the most important groups of bottom-dwelling animals in streams and rivers throughout the world. Mayflies are very good indicators of the health of the water and eco-system. In Mexico and some areas of the United States and Canada, mayfly species are susceptible to existing and impending environmental degradation. Already, four recent species of North American burrowing mayflies are considered to have recently become extinct. I just hate to hear things like that.

Make sure you're doing your part to keep our lakes and rivers clean. The mayflies are counting on you!

             

Spiderweb full of mayflies

photo of muffleheads

mufflehead swarm

  Mayflies & Muffleheads

As many pictures as I have of mayflies on this site, there still seems to be some confusion between mayflies and muffleheads. I don't quite understand how, but hey, not everyone's into bugs. I will try to clear that up right now so watch and listen up, folks!

Muffleheads usually show up one to two weeks before the mayflies and are alot smaller than mayflies. They are slightly larger than mosquitos but will not bite you. They also have fuzzy little antennae.

These great photos were submitted by Gwen DeBoard of Columbus, Ohio. The first one is a closeup shot of muffleheads. She took them in Geneva, Ohio at the Geneva State Park Beach by the restroom walkway on June 6th, 2009.

"I was on that Beach until the sun went down, I didn't see one Mayfly, but we did see thousands of muffleheads..... I looked up in the sky and saw & heard swarms. It was amazing!  And the sound was incredible!  Loud humming like bees."

It's hard to believe because they're so small, but I supposed if you get that many mufflehead all flying at once, they're bound to make some kind of noise.

Now, if you'll notice, folks, there's no wings sticking up and no long tail. Yes, they can swarm like mayflies but you won't have them hanging around smelling like dead fish all over the place. They are a lot less of a nusiance than the mayflies.

That is about it. Do we know the difference now? Good... class dismissed!!  And thanks for your help, Gwen!


mayfly season


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