Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Is Icumin In, Loudly Sing Fishfly!

From what I hear, it’s fishfly season in Michigan, and I’m nostalgic, so I thought I’d share an image, and some reminiscences, with all of you.

If you don’t come from a Great Lakes state you may be unfamiliar with these charismatic, ephemeral insects (or you may foolishly insist on calling them “mayflies,” and I will ignore you). They are in fact in the order Ephemeroptera because their lives are so fleeting: although they can live for almost a year in their larval, freshwater stages, the adults only live a day or so (or less), not eating, not hiding from predators—not doing anything except mating and then going out in a blaze of glory (or a crunch if you happen to step on ‘em).

Some people complain about fishflies, partly because, in a good year, there can be hundreds of thousands of them emerging at once, covering streets and the sides of buildings. I think it’s an absurd thing to whine about, given that the unassuming little insects are entirely harmless: they don’t bite, they don’t sting, and they rarely even land on you (unless a friend of yours sticks one on you as a “joke”). They just cling to things in a mild-mannered way until they have sex or die (or both), and they’re, to me, a lovely signal of the season.

Additionally, a good year for fishflies usually means a good year for the health of the lake, so there’s another good reason to rejoice in the little guys.

In my years living in Boston and now DC, I’ve never encountered any fishflies, and I have to say, I still miss them, innocent and charming creatures that they are. There’s something magical about animals that appear all of a sudden and disappear almost as quickly—something as magical as the season itself, and the long, bright days that at first seem as if they’ll last forever and then suddenly slip away.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

Seen just a few, too few, so far. I'm glad you took such a great photo of them. They are lovely, objectively speaking. Even their dried-up husks look like happy ghosts, hanging on to screens.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old entry but I adore it. It's such a kind, lovely way to view fishflies. I am also from Michigan and I miss the yearly clusters...and now I'm over by Boston as wekk, I'm in Cape Cod! I just had one land on me and hang out the whole time I was gardening. Lovely little thing. :)

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