Natural History


posted: 05/23/13
Read more Read less
Mayfly | Photo Caption: Excerpted from North America: A World in One Continent by Huw Cordey
Nick Lyon

Billions of mayflies hatch every year on the Mississippi. Each one lives for only a day, but there are so many that they provide food for an enormous range of animals in and around the river.

Hatching isn't always predictable, but here's what we do know: for two hours every night, like clockwork, the new hatchlings take to the air as the females that had hatched the night before dances back onto the river to lay their eggs. This is their last act before dying. These eggs will sink into the river and develop into naiads, the immature stage of the mayfly, which will live in the water for a year before emerging.

Mayflies will only hatch in clean water, so when they hatch in large numbers, it's a sign that the fish in that area will be healthy.

EXPLORE THE SWAMPS & RAINFORESTS: Alligator | Jaguar | Long-Tailed Manakin | Mayfly | ALL NORTH AMERICAN ANIMALS

More on
North America