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Mayfly Facts

About Mayflies

Mayflies are fly fisherman’s best friend. They represent a major food source for trout in many of the aquatic insects’ lifecycle from the mayfly nymph to the adult. Mayflies are an ancient aquatic insect with over 3,000 species still existing all over the globe. They need healthy clean freshwater to survive.

Adult mayflies are easily recognizable as they float the surface of rivers and streams. Unlike other insects wings, their telltale wing shape and position gives them away instantly because they stand upright, almost like butterfly wings. On the water, they look like a sailboat setting a course for exotic lands.

These insects come in all different sizes. They can be found in a wide range of colors as well, from black to white, these insects cover the entire spectrum. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica. The species is so varied that thirty or more different species can inhabit the same piece of water.

Mayflies are found in stagnant ponds to torrential mountain streams. They are active all months of the year, either below the surface or above. The main ingredient for mayflies is clean, fresh water.

They mate in flight during their short adult life of 2 days or less. After the mating, the female releases her eggs and dies. While living, the wings are upright, in death, the mayflies wings are no longer upright, but lay flat upon the surface of the water.

Watch Mayfly Madness [VIDEO]

The life and times of the mayfly on the Mississippi — all twenty-four hours of it.


Mayflies are among the easiest aquatic insects to identify. Their obvious shapes set them apart from all other bugs. Especially in the adult stage of life.

  • Eyes: Their eyes are literally bug eyes. When someone says bug eyes, this is exactly what comes to mind. The thin body help exaggerate the size of the eyes.
  • Body: Made up of the thorax and the abdomen, it has a narrow soft body. The thorax is where the legs and wings attach to the body. The abdomen is segmented.
  • Wings: Mayflies have two sets of wings. The main set is much larger than the second set. Some species second set of wings are quite diminutive or even absent. The wings stand straight up on the thorax and parallel to the body.
  • Tail: Mayflies have two or three very thin hair-like tails. The length of the tails is usually as long or longer than the body.

Photo Credit Mick Talbot


Mayflies have very distinct characteristics.

  • Mayfly Life CycleStarting from eggs to adults, this details the insect stage.
  • Mayfly Habitat: Mayflies are found on every continent of the globe but Antarctica.
  • Species of Mayflies: Nearly 3,000 different species of mayflies exist across the world.
  • Mayfly Hatch: The emergence is what fly fishermen look forward to every day on the water during the summer months.
  • Mayfly Swarm: Swarms of mayflies can shut down entire communities with thousands of insects hatching at once.
  • Pictures of Mayflies: Great photos of mayflies.
  • Mayfly Patterns: Common fly fishing patterns for both dry flies and nymphs.
  • Other Insects: Other important fly fishing insects.

Distribution Map

mayflies distribution map
Data from Mayfly Central

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