Posts Tagged ‘mayfly’


Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

When I’m walking or working in the garden, I always keep my camera close at hand, because you never know who you might see. The garden plays host to an awesome assortment of creatures. Many garden inhabitants live hidden lives and remain invisible, their presence undetected by we mere humans. Others are more amenable to photography, or at least are engrossed in their own activities and pay no heed to the photographer.

No pesticides of any sort, toxic or organic, are used in my garden. Life is too precious. Plants that don’t thrive in this ecosystem are replaced with more tolerant species. Here is a selection of photographs of garden life. It is by no means all-inclusive. Some visitors are heard, but not seen, so the closing entry is a short recording of a black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus), ho-ho-hoing softly from shrubbery.


Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

white admiral

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)



Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)


Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)


Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)


Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)


Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)


Skipper sp.


Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)


American Toad (Bufo americanus)


Baby Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)


Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)


Dragonfly, Meadowhawk sp.


Virginia Ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica)


Yellow Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) with prey

mountain ash sawfly larvae

Mountain Ash Sawfly larvae (Pristiphora geniculata)


Bumblebee (Bombus sp)


Mayfly (order Ephemeroptera)


Hummingbird Clearwing Hawkmoth (Hemaris thysbe)


Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)


Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris ) female


Cedar Waxwing pair (Bombycilla cedrorum)

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Wings for a Day

While I was working in the garden, I noticed this mayfly perched nearby. Mayflies belong to the order Ephemeroptera, which refers to their brief time on earth spent as mayflies. For most of their lives, they live not in the air, but in water, as nymphs. Their larval stage may last a year, or maybe two years. Mayfly nymphs have rather stout bodies, maybe an inch long, with three “tails”, properly called caudal filaments. This makes them easy to tell from the similar stonefly larvae, which have only two tails. Most mayfly larvae eat plants or organic matter, but some are predatory.

There are about 600 mayfly species, comprising 21 families. Mayflies are sensitive to water pollution, so finding mayfly nymphs in a stream is generally regarded as a sign of reasonable water quality. Most mayfly species have specific habitat requirements, and because of their sensitivity to pollution, some species are endangered or have become extinct since the human neighbours moved in.

The nymphs molt, shedding their exoskeleton several times before they leave the water. Upon emerging from their watery home, they enter the first winged stage, called the subimago. They molt one last time into the fully adult stage called the imago. The imagos live just long enough to mate and for the females to lay eggs. With only vestigial mouthparts, they don’t even eat, and live just a day or two.

Imagine that. Instead of creeping slowly and steadily in a long decline that leads to the grave, like we humans do, mayflies complete their lives with one glorious, amazing burst. Freed from the bonds of the water they have called home all their lives, they suddenly find themselves soaring through the air, the sun glistening on wonderful wings, dancing, weaving….

What a way to go!

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