June is finally busting out at Crossroads, and now that it’s mid-June, we expect to be seeing mayflies. Most years, they are dying in droves at about now. For many, mayfly carcasses are to summer what the first robin is to spring.
For most of its life, a mayfly lives underwater in its immature (naiad) stage. This gilled creature spends its submerged youth grazing primarily on green slime and waiting, without foreknowledge, or any knowledge for that matter, for the BIG day. OK, sometimes it’s two days and in cool weather, several days. And days are long in June…but even so, these insects have a very short adult life. And very busy.
When mayflies emerge from the water as winged but fragile insects, they eat nothing. In fact, they don’t even have feeding mouth parts. According on one reference book, a mayfly has the ultimate receding chin. Well, maybe the text didn’t put it quite that way, but you get the picture.
Though they do not eat, they must learn to fly, molt twice, mate and if they are female, lay eggs before they die. A full day, yes?
I have to tell you that most males never mate. The winged sexually mature males swarm. in a bizarre dance, they fly heavenward and then, like hang gliders, float down. Flying and floating in unison, the rise and fall repeatedly.
Eventually, the females show up and one by one fly directly into the undulating swarm. If a female comes within grabbing distance–the male grabs and the pair flies off. Of course, all the males and all of the females are dead before the next generation hatches underwater. No family programs for them. But for humans , we offer free Family Programs Monday through Thursday at Crossroads at 1:30.
Summer Educator Joan Wilkie will offer hands-on activities appropriate for all ages. This week, topics will include insects, animal acrobatics, birds and wildflowers, and butterflies. Programs are interactive and will be held rain or shine. All programs start at the Collins Learning Center.