Thursday, 12 September 2013

One Day Wonder

On the day we visited Savonnières we noticed lots of sandy colored 'stuff' on the ground. It was drifts on the bridge over the river Cher, piled along buildings and heaped in every nook or cranny close to the river. When we parked the car opposite the church to have a look around the village I first went to investigate the 'stuff' while Niall went to have a closer look at the church.
Sandy 'stuff' at the foot of the stairs on the left
Closer inspection showed that it was literally millions of dead insects - some species of mayfly. In French mayflies are called éphémère. In the photograph above you can see a pile of dead mayflies heaped against the bottom of an outside stair. 
The outside stair: carpeted with dead mayflies
Like damsel or dragonflies, mayflies go through various stages of development in fresh water before emerging from the river or stream in their adult form. Adult mayflies [also known as shadflies] have an extremely short life span which can last from literally a few minutes to a few days.
 the aftermath of the hatch
Seemingly it is not at all unusual for a population of mayflies to mature simultaneously and this is called a hatch. These hatches can take place in spring or autumn so what we saw was the aftermath of an autumnal one.

12 comments:

rusty duck said...

How bizarre. And rather sad.

MorningAJ said...

Very strange. It must be tough to have such a short life. So much to pack into a few hours. Though they probably think it's a normal life!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Rusty - they have various incarnations underwater, so the final stage is just long enough for them to mate.
It was the sheer numbers that impressed on us.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@AJ - it is a bit. When they rise the only thing on their agenda is mate and then it's job done.

Vera said...

The cycle of life is a wondrous thing even to that of a mayfly!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Vera - though theirs is one of the odder cycles. Just glad we weren't there when they were flitting around. It must have been like a locust swarm --only pint sized.

Perpetua said...

The French name for them is perfect. I know about their life-cycle but to see such vast numbers of remains is rather eerie.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - it is isn't it.

I'd only ever seen this on a natural history programme. Colour them pink and you'd have thought it was cherry blossom petals.

Jean said...

The chances of seeing this must not be very great I think - presumably all are blown or washed away by now.
Fascinating.

LindyLou Mac said...

Oh my goodness, I would not have liked getting caught in that mass swarm! It was fortunate you missed it, great photos and interesting info.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jean - I asked Susan & Simon and they were there just the day before [or after --I can't remember] and saw nothing.

Just fluke.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@LindyLou - how lovely to see you are back :-)
No we wouldn't have wanted to get caught in a hatch at all!!! But interesting to see the aftermath.