The Mississippi Valley was swarmed by the recently hatched flies this weekend.
Mayflies hatch and erupt in large swarms on the Mississippi every year, but scientists say this year’s swarm is larger than in previous years.
The mayflies presence is actually a good sign for the area; it denotes a healthy river system capable of supporting life, but it definitely makes life tough on locals.
Reports were coming in from Minnesota of swarms so large that they blocked out the sun and caused poor visibility, even resulting in a 3 car accident that injured three and sent one to the hospital.
Aside from the poor visibility, the swarms of flies have been known to pose a hazard to drivers; when the flies are smashed on the road, they form a thick oily buildup resulting in poor driving conditions.
Some towns have even taken to pouring sand on the road when the mayflies hatch to provide more traction for drivers.
The flies belonging to the order Ephemeroptera, whose Greek translation roughly translates into “lasting-a-day insect,” have a very short adult lifespan, ranging anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
While locals aren’t over the moon about the mayflies arrival, experts, scientists, and those in the Department of Natural Resources are rejoicing in the healthy signs of life from the Mississippi.
Mayfly larva thrives in healthy freshwater systems, and the record numbers from this year’s hatching point to a healthy river system with healthy levels of lead and mercury, two pollutants that mayfly larva are highly sensitive too.
This year’s large swarms are also good news for someone else; the hungry fish in the Mississippi and local waterways. The mayflies provide a nice source of protein and nutrients for the fish, making a nice meal that will hopefully support and help grow local fish populations.