Cloeon dipterum nymph with developing wings Cloeon dipterum sub-imago
Mayflies mate on the wing, with the males dying shortly afterwards. The females return to a suitable water body and deposit eggs in the water. In some species, the eggs overwinter before hatching, while in others the eggs hatch after a few weeks and it is the nymphs that overwinter.
Role of mayflies in gardens
Mayfly nymphs are eaten by a wide range of fish and other animals, so are an important part of aquatic food chains. Adult mayflies of some of the common species emerge from the water in huge numbers within a few days of each other. Their mating flights provide rich feeding opportunities for swifts, swallows, house martins and bats.
Other sources of information
Bauernfeind, E. & Soldan, T. (2012) Mayflies of Europe. Apollo Books
Elliott, J. M. & Humpesch, U. H. (1983) A key to the adults of the British Ephemeroptera. Freshwater Biology Association
Elliott, J. M. & Humpesch, U. H. (2012) Mayfly larvae (Ephemeroptera) of Britain and Ireland. Freshwater Biology Association
Harker, J. & Rodford, J. (1990) Naturalists Handbooks 13 Mayflies. Richmond Publishing
Macadam, C. & Bennett, C. (2010) A pictorial guide to British Ephemeroptera. A Field Studies Council AIDGAP key, Preston Montford, Shrewsbury
Page text drafted by Andrew Halstead, reviewed by Andrew Salisbury, compiled by Steve Head