Mayfly Life Cycle

Mayfly is an insect that falls under the order Ephemeroptera. The insects under Ephemeroptera live for a short period of time and emerge in large numbers during summers. Mayflies have compound eyes, short antennae and non-functional digestive systems. They are around 2,500 species of mayflies around the world, but they are known to have the shortest lifespan.

Let’s look at the life cycle of a mayfly.

Life Cycle of a Mayfly:

  1. The Egg – Stage 1 –

Mayfly eggs are oval or round-shaped eggs. Depending on the species it belongs, a female mayfly can produce from 50 eggs to 10,000 eggs. Mayfly lays her eggs in water which settles down at the bottom. Usually, the mayfly eggs hatch in about 2 weeks but in unfavourable conditions, they undergo a time of zero growth. This halt in the egg stage is known as diapause. Diapause is the technique several insects use in order to protect themselves from predators during the nymph stage.

  1. The Nymph – Stage 2 –

The nymph stage in mayfly varies depending on the species it belongs to. Some stages last two weeks while in other species this stage lasts for a year. They shed 50 times during the nymph stage. Once the moulting is complete, wings appear and the mayfly is called subimago or dun. Subimago mayflies float on the surface of the water. After some time, the subimago sheds skin for last and the imago (spinners) or adult mayfly emerges and enters the adult stage.

  1. The Adult – Stage 3 –

Mayflies are the only insects who moult after entering the adult stage. Spinner mayflies are devoid of mouth or digestive systems and cannot drink or eat. They have short antennae, large compound eyes and are only able to reproduce at this stage. Spinner mayflies mate in mid-air. Once the eggs are fertilized, she lays them on the water surface. Adult mayflies are known to shortly die after mating.


Mayflies are prominent in the environment in many hot summer months, other than the month of May. An interesting feature to note is that mayflies spend almost a year in their nymph stage and are most likely to die in 2 days after their birth. Fossils of mayflies are around 320 million years old.

Frequently Asked Questions on Mayfly Life Cycle


What do mayflies eat?

Adult mayflies feed on nothing as they do not have mouthparts to consume food. The nymph mayfly feeds on pieces of plants and other algae found on rocks.


How to get rid of mayfly infestation?

Mayflies are tiny flies that can be eradicated just by brooming. Brooming also kills these fragile flies in the process of cleaning.


Why do mayflies have a short life expectancy?

Adult mayflies lack mouthparts and are unable to feed in as adults. Nymph mayfly, on the other hand, feeds on parts of plants and algae when it is underwater. The adult mayfly only survives to mate with the female mayfly in order to lay eggs.

To explore more information on mayfly and other flies, register bat BYJU’S Biology.

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