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*** Note: KnowYourInsects.org does its best to include correct identifications of insect photos. It’s always possible that we made a mistake, however, so if you see a misidentification, please contact us and we will correct it. Thanks!

Order Ephemeroptera: the mayflies — Examples
For more information, see the article: “How to Survive a Massive Mayfly Swarm” on the Entomological Society of America’s blog Entomology Today.

Subimago mayfly
Mayfly, possibly Giant Mayfly, Hexagenia limbata, family Ephemeridae (Common Burrower Mayflies).
□ Adult mayflies have no functioning mouths or digestive systems, but that’s OK, because they only live a day or so — long enough to mate and lay eggs. Most of the mayfly’s life is spent underwater as a youngster (naiad). Most naiads eat algae and vegetation, although a few species will eat other little critters in their freshwater environment.
Photographed and identified as a mayfly by: Lauryn Filby. Location: De Soto, Kansas, USA. Date: 8 July 2016. Lauryn says, “This specimen lacks significantly dark characteristics. It may be younger which would cause a lack of pigmentation.”
Subimago mayfly
Mayfly, possibly Giant Mayfly, Hexagenia limbata, family Ephemeridae (Common Burrower Mayflies).
□ Anglers abbreviate the name Hexagenia limbata as simply Hex. This species often emerges from the water en masse in a “hex hatch.” Fish go into a feeding frenzy when the hatch is underway, so it is a good time to get out the fishing rod.
Photographed and identified as a mayfly by: Lauryn Filby. Location: De Soto, Kansas, USA. Date: 8 July 2016.
Mayfly
Mayfly, order Ephemeroptera (the mayflies).
□ Nearly all mayfly species have two pairs of wings: one large front pair (the forewings), and one much-smaller pair (the hindwings). See if you can see the hindwings on any of the adult mayflies on this page.
Photographed and identified by: Dayana Gonzalez-Saez. Location: Connecticut, USA. Date: 25 May, 2017.
Pale Burrower Mayfly, Ephoron virgo
Pale Burrower Mayfly, Ephoron virgo, family Polymitarcyidae (the pale burrowers).
□ Pale Burrower is an apt name for this mayfly. With its light-tan coloration, it is definitely pale, and the aquatic larva digs a tunnel in the substrate underwater. The larva lives in the tunnel, using its gills to fan water — and prey (smaller invertebrates) — past.
Photographed by: Ingmar Janssen. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: The Netherlands. Date: 20 July, 2018.
Mayfly swarm
Mayfly swarm, order Ephemeroptera (the mayflies).
□ This big swarm was attracted by the lights on the bridge in this photo from Indonesia.
Photographed by: Galuh Prasetyawan. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Indonesia. Date: 25 January 2017. Galuh says the mayflies swarmed at dusk, caused slippery driving conditions when they landed on the road surface, and “a lot of motorcycles fell.”
Adult mayfly
Mayfly, adult.
Photographed and identified by: Simon Adams. Location: Colchester, England. Date: 4 June 2014.
Adult mayfly
Mayfly, order Ephemeroptera (the mayflies).
□ This is a closeup of a mayfly — a swarm of them is shown in the previous photo.
Photographed by: Galuh Prasetyawan. Location: Indonesia. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Date: 25 January 2017.
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Mayfly casing
Mayfly, exuviae (shed casing), order Ephemeroptera.
□ The one on the left is an adult that may have hatched out of the casing (or exuviae) on the right. With these insects, the young (naiads) live underwater for many months. When they are ready to turn into adults, they get wings, swim up out of the water and onto the land, and molt one last time into adults. The adults live only 1-2 days.
Photographed by: Christie Remaly. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Club Deb in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Date: 6 July 2018.
Mayfly casing
Mayfly, exuviae (shed casing), order Ephemeroptera.
□ This is the shed casing, or exuviae, of a winged but immature mayfly. Such an immature mayfly is called a subimago. The adult mayfly emerges and leaves behind this exuviae. Mayflies are unusual in that they have an immature version that has functional wings. (Among other winged insects, only the adults have functional wings.) Fly fishermen call the immature, winged mayflies “duns.”
Photographed by: Lori Sughroue. Identified by: Kelly McKinne (@gonzonaturalist). Location: Elk Rapids, Michigan, USA. Date: 31 August 2016. Lori says, “There were dozens of these in varying sizes, approximately half an inch to this one, about three inches long.”
Mayfly
Mayfly, exuviae, order Ephemeroptera (the mayflies).
□ Look at the amazingly long cerci (the two “tails”) on this shed casing!
Photographed by: Victoria Abbott. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: United Kingdom. Date: 26 July, 2017. Victoria says, “I was wondering if you could help ID this wonderful insect. My friend found it on her shed today in the UK. Would be absolutely tremendous to find out what it is.” KnowYourInsects.org loves Victoria’ enthusiasm and we’re happy to help!
Mayfly
Mayfly, exuviae, order Ephemeroptera (the mayflies).
□ The photographer found this near the shore of Lake Erie in the fall. It had a half-inch-long (1.25cm) body and inch-long (2.5cm) “tails” (cerci). This is the exuviae, or the shed casing of a mayfly. Most mayfly species metamorphose from nymph to adult earlier in the year, but a few species hold out until late summer and early fall.
Photographed by: Jack Hawkins. Identified by: KnowYourInsects.org. Location: Southern Ontario, Canada. Date: fall 2017. Jack says, “In my travels, I saw straw tail birds with a 12- to 14-inch (30-35 cm) straw-like appendage. It was on an island like Mauritius or Seychelles Islands. (This) bug reminded me of the bird!”
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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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