World’s Oldest Winged Insect Is in Trouble. How Frightened Should We Be?

"Mayflies are among nature’s best environmental sentinels — and their current message to us is grim".

"One morning in April, I waded into a cold mountain stream in Virginia called the Hazel River. I was there to fish for brook trout but found myself looking more than casting. The sun coming through the trees had gathered into a soft haze above the pool I was in. Hovering in the illumination was a cinnamon-colored insect.

It moved slowly up and down with what seemed to be the rhythm of a gentle song, its long body and tails hanging below the wings. I was reminded of something I couldn’t quite recall. UFOs came to mind. Then ballet dancers. And finally sprites. I had seen mayflies plenty of times over the years — trout love to eat mayflies, and I love to catch trout — but this one was enchanting.

In the spirit of the moment, I tried to summon what I knew about them. This mayfly had lived for a year or so underwater as a nymph with gills and an outer skeleton of armor. It had probably emerged into the terrestrial world that morning with new wings. It was in search of a mate and didn’t have a moment to lose: In a day or two it would be dead."

Robert O'Harrow Jr. reports for the Washington Post September 19, 2022.

Source: Washington Post, 09/20/2022