How to Get Rid of Mayflies: Natural and Non-Natural Sollutions

Mayflies' appearance, habitat, and natural and non-natural ways of getting rid of them.
By
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
reviewed
Reviewed By
Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: December 24, 2022
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When you’re looking for solutions on how to get rid of mayflies, the load of information thrown at you might feel a little overwhelming. There’s a ton of information on the internet about removing horse flies, deer flies, white flies, and a million other pest control solutions for thousands of different insects.

In this article, we’re going to focus on a very specific type of fly that seems to be everywhere in the summertime – the mayfly which is often called “the fish fly” because of its passion for being near water. We’ll also learn how to identify it, where it comes from, and most importantly – how to get rid of mayflies for good and prevent their reinfestation. Read on and find out everything you need to know about getting rid of mayflies!

Identifying Mayflies

The first step in getting rid of any infestation is to recognize exactly what you’re dealing with. The following steps below will help you to identify exactly what kind of bug is in your home and how to identify mayflies properly. By doing so, it’ll be much easier to learn how to get rid of mayflies outside and how to get rid of mayflies in your house and buildings rather than following instructions on how to remove horseflies and how to remove deer flies by mistake!

Mayfly Appearance

How to Get Rid of Mayflies: Natural and Non-Natural Sollutions

Mayflies belong to an order of insects called Ephemeroptera, which give them a much different appearance than many other flies. They are more closely related to dragonflies and damselflies than house flies and other pests.

Mayflies only survive as adults for about twenty-four hours, so it’s of high importance to know how to identify their four forms: egg, nymph or naiad, subimago, and imago.

Color

Adult (imago) mayflies are yellow-green on their abdomen with brown markings all over. Their bodies taper darker as they go down, and their tails are black. The wings on their bodies are translucent but are covered with brown lace-like patterns all over.

Mayfly eggs are white or grey, and while the initial larvae are light-colored, they get darker with age. They only develop wings in the subimago stage (pre-adult). However, as imago (adult) mayflies, the green color grows brighter.

Shape

Mayfly eggs are round or rounded with a pointed tip like chicken eggs. In nymph form, before their wings start to develop, they are long and thin, similar to a newt or other water-dwelling lizard or insect. By the subimago stage, they’re a similar shape but have developed three tails and a more curved body along with their wings.

The adult form is long and thin with triangular wings and three pointed tails. Their wings don’t fold over their back but stay upright like a butterfly.

Size

In larval form, mayflies are between 0.5 and 1 inch in size. They continue to grow through molting until adulthood, at which point they measure in at about 1.5 inches at most but are usually considerably smaller.

Legs

Though mayflies have several legs, most of them don’t work! However, the front legs of the males are long and thin, as they’re used to grab females during mating.

Antennae

Mayfly antennae are short and stubby, especially when compared to other insects.

Habitat and Lifecycle

From egg until near adulthood, mayflies spend their entire lives in the water. Females lay as few as fifty or as many as up to several thousand eggs in the water (depending on the species) immediately after mating. They choose streams, rivers, and ponds which are clean or as close to it as possible.

They hatch after a few weeks to a month, then go through several stages from larvae to nymphs (“child” mayflies), subimago (“adolescent” mayflies), and imago (adults). Some subimago species begin to spend time on the banks of their river. Only as adults do the flies fully leave the water to begin mating, which is when swarms occur. After mating and depositing eggs, the adults die. Their lifespan as adults is around twenty-four hours.

The lifespan of a mayfly from egg to adult is around a year or two, depending on the specific species of mayfly.

Geography

Mayflies are found in every country in the world except for Antarctica, where it is too cold for them to thrive. They are often blown between areas by the wind or carried in ships or other forms of transport. They’re found in any areas with natural supplies of fresh water. For this reason, small islands and similar areas are not likely to have mayflies or only have a few.

South America has the largest variations of the type of mayfly, whereas in the north – both North America and northern Europe and Asia – have different individual species.

The three main subfamilies of mayflies prefer different homes. Ephemiridae like sandy waterbeds, Baetidae like warm water, and Heptageniidae like fast water and under stones. All of this affects their general geographical location.

US Geography

Within the US, mayflies are most common near lakes, especially the Great Lakes, though can be found anywhere. Though they used to be more common in the north of the country, there are now several different species in the southeastern United States. There are no states without mayflies.

If you are curious about the scientific definitions and locations of different types of mayflies, a categorization of mayflies across the continent of Northern America can be found here.

Mayfly vs. Fishfly vs. Shad fly

How to Get Rid of Mayflies: Natural and Non-Natural Sollutions

Mayflies, fishflies, and shad flies are all part of the insect family, of which there are over two thousand species. Practically, there are no differences between them, and these are all different names and colloquialisms based on location. They can be used interchangeably.

Around the Great Lakes, giant mayflies are often specified as fish flies.

Inspecting Mayflies

The first step to inspecting your property for mayflies involves checking around all sources of water, especially running water like streams or other water sources which support healthy life such as ponds. Check on the banks of these areas where subimago mayflies may be, or in shallow areas which may host eggs. Subimago eggs spend two or three days in the banks preparing for their full adult form.

It’s also important to search around sources of bright light, as mayflies are attracted to lights like many other insects. Keep an eye out for shed skins and bodies, as they may hint to further flies or the location of eggs.

Finally, check the walls of buildings, especially those with small cracks, as mayfly adults often congregate there and can get inside.

How to Get Rid of Mayflies

The first thing to note is that, unlike lots of other flies, mayflies are not a serious pest for people. Their main nuisance comes when they mate, as they swarm and get everywhere, but they are not dangerous or dirty like a house fly and are not able to bite like a deer fly.

However, an infestation is still uncomfortable, so it’s great to find ways to get rid of them. Of course, a professional pest control solution is always the most effective, but there are plenty of options you can use.

We advise using natural methods and DIY products first and foremost before turning to more toxic or serious products, depending on the level of intrusion.

DIY Solutions

Fly swatters, essential oils, and natural sprays are a good way to get rid of flies in general, and mayflies are no exception. However, since mayflies tend to swarm unlike other types of pests, swatting may not be as useful as other methods. However, if you see a mayfly near you, it’s always a good thing to keep one of the best electric fly swatters nearby.

1. Garlic and Garlic Spray

How to Get Rid of Mayflies: Natural and Non-Natural Sollutions

Garlic and garlic spray are great natural insect repellants and are often employed to get rid of pests such as mosquitoes. The scent of garlic is a natural irritant to insects and keeps them away, and mayflies are an example of an insect who hates it!

You can use dried garlic spread over an area in a powder, but inside this tends to bother the human residents. A spray might be more helpful if you’re working inside. It’s very easy to make your own spray, too!

All you have to do is crush garlic and mix it in some boiled water as if you were making tea. Leave it to soak for several hours. Use as much or as little garlic as you want, but obviously, more garlic is going to be a stronger repellant. After that, you don’t need to do anything else—just pop it in a spray bottle and apply it around the house to keep the mayflies and other insects away.

2. Water

Mayflies live in water most of their lives, but you can still use it to get used to annoying adult pests! A decent shot of water will knock them out of the sky and wash away any that are nesting. From there, it’s very easy to vacuum them up and be rid of them entirely.

3. Essential Oils

Several essential oils are effective against many insects. To target mayflies specifically, some of the best products you can use are peppermint, cedarwood, rosemary, and basil. There are several others too, which your supplies will be able to help you locate. Mixing these oils and applying them around the home and garden can help repel the insects easily.

Remember, mayflies die quickly – so prevention is better than eradication in almost all cases!

Non-Natural Solutions

There are non-natural solutions for getting rid of mayflies, but be cautious – these are not as effective for this species as they are for most flying pests. After all, mayfly adults don’t live very long to begin with, and the younger flies have more resistance. However, there are several options.

1. Bug Zappers

How to Get Rid of Mayflies: Natural and Non-Natural Sollutions
A bug zapper will also help get rid of some other pests like mosquitoes and other types of flies.

Mayflies are very attracted to light. A bug zapper is a quick and efficient way to kill mayflies. They will fly straight toward the UV light and hit against the electrified wires, quickly killing them. Just make sure you clean up the bodies and check for them regularly, as they can build up. If you are considering getting one of these, check out the best bug zappers.

2. Traps

Fly traps such as fly paper or bait traps are also effective against mayflies, though be sure to use the right bait in the latter traps! However, be mindful of the short lifespan of the mayfly and whether a trap is a worthwhile solution. Since mayflies tend to swarm, though, this can be a good way to get rid of many of them at once, especially the flypaper.

3. Mayfly Poisons

There aren’t many chemical solutions that are great against mayflies, but there are some targeted toward these bugs specifically, such as Essentria IC3 Insecticide Concentrate and Talstar P Professional Insecticide.

4. Chemical foggers

In general, we recommend avoiding chemical foggers when it comes to pest control unless they are used by a certified pest control professional. Chemical foggers release toxic chemicals into the air which are very effective at killing many bugs but can also be dangerous to the humans living in the house. If you have pets or small children, you should never use a chemical fogger without professional advice.

Preventing Mayflies Reinfestation

The first step is to make sure you have inspected all potential infestation areas. Once you’ve done this, keeping curtains shut at night and avoiding bright lights in general – especially during May – September when the adults are most active – will help keep both mayflies and many other bugs away. Make sure you turn off outdoor lights, too. Yellow bug-prevention bulbs will help if the lights have to be on, as they attract fewer bugs than white lights.

If you have a swimming pool, cover it up when you’re not using it to prevent mayflies from laying eggs and breeding, especially in the summer months. Be sure to get your pool cleaned regularly.

There are also mayfly-prevention treatments from professional pest control teams you can apply just before the mating season to help prevent the flies from ever appearing at all.

FAQ

Why do I have so many mayflies?

It might simply be where you live! Being near sources of water, especially rivers and lakes, unfortunately, carries a huge risk of mayfly infestation. In the late spring months through the summer, the adult mayflies are likely to fly everywhere they can in their quest to mate, and unfortunately that includes human property!

Do mayflies bite or sting?

Not at all! Mayflies are not dangerous. They do not sting, and they don’t bite. In fact, most species can’t bite, because they don’t even have mouths in imago form. All they focus on in their adult life is mating, then they die.

How long do mayflies stay around?

Individual mayflies don’t live more than twenty-four hours, but that doesn’t mean that the infestations are any less annoying. They breed all year round (despite the name!) but this tends to focus in the late spring and right through to early fall. Between late May and early July, many, many mayflies reach the imago stage and start to breed, which is when the swarms begin in earnest. These infestations tend to last for a few weeks.

Are mayflies a sign of dirtiness or decay?

Not at all – in fact, quite the opposite is true. Mayflies are specifically attracted to clean environments and fresh sources of water. In fact, one of the ways that scientists can tell if an area is ecologically sound is by the presence of mayflies. Over two hundred different kinds of aquatic or semi-aquatic animals like frogs and fish use mayflies as a major source of their diets. Streams and ponds that don’t have mayflies are often too unhealthy to support living well and are a sign of bad ecology.

What is a giant mayfly?

Hexagenia Limbata, the giant mayfly, is a specifically North American creature. These are the ones most commonly known as fish flies and most often found around the Great Lakes. They prefer slow-moving water and are bigger than many other species of mayfly. They can reach just over an inch in length.

Giant mayflies are found all over Canada and in forty-eight US states. They are only not found in Alaska and in Arizona.

Final Thoughts

Mayflies might not be the most dangerous bugs around, but their large swarms during mating season can be uncomfortable, unappealing, and unpalatable. It can also be quite intimidating to those who don’t come from an area where they’re not used to such a thing! The alarming nature of mayflies leads a lot of people to want to prevent them or eradicate them as effectively and efficiently as possible.

This article covered how to get rid of mayflies by identifying, understanding, and preventing them, as well as giving tips on what to do when they are already there. Many methods cross over with other flying insects, but there are some areas that don’t, thanks to the vast difference in these species. The most important thing is knowing what you need from your pest control.

There’s no need to worry about mayflies – so long as you follow the tips in this article and remain vigilant, they’ll be gone from your property in no time!

 

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