Stories tagged summer phenology

It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
"Lightning is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the atmospheric sciences, researchers say. Scientists at the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing in Florida are inducing lightning to strike so they can understand it better. Though summer doesn't begin officially for a few weeks, one of the signature marks of summer may already be in the air near you -- the evening thunderstorm. Thousands of lightning strikes occur on the planet every minute, but the summer heat and humidity help to ramp up the number of lightning-producing thunderstorms. We'll talk about the science of lightning."
Learn more.

A storm... of mayflies: They're coming for you. Well, no, not really. Or are they? No.
A storm... of mayflies: They're coming for you. Well, no, not really. Or are they? No.Courtesy NOAA
I hope y'all have your Mayfly Apocalypse plans laid out. Quick! Raid the fly swatter store! Get used to mayfly burgers!

What you're looking at is a Doppler radar image from La Crosse, Wisconsin, from Saturday. Mayflies just hatched on that section of the Mississippi. The pink, purple, and white area along the river is where the insects were thickest, so thick that the Doppler weather radar picked them up. Wild. Cover your mouth, eh?

Jul
06
2009

Mayflies: Developing a sudden interest in trucks, apparently.
Mayflies: Developing a sudden interest in trucks, apparently.Courtesy adolson13
Did things just get a little… sexier in here? By “in here” I mean in my local metro area? So did things just get a little… sexier in the Twin Cities?

Oh ho, I think they just did. I took my shoes off the write this post, and that’s part of it, but that’s not where it starts. No, it starts with thousands upon thousands of young adults—in the blazing prime of their life, really—with one thing on their minds, and not much time on their hands.

Yep, the mayflies have hatched. That is, they hatched about a year ago, and have just now completed their final moults into adulthood. Now they have anywhere between a day and just half an hour to do what needs to be done. In their case, it’s sex that needs to be done. Other than vague efforts at avoiding premature death via fish mouth or windshield, adult mayflies haven’t got a lot of distractions—while immature naiad mayflies spend months paddling around at the bottoms of streams and lakes eating algae, their mouthparts are vestigial (useless) when they reach maturity, and their digestive tracks are full of air. (Exactly when this occurs is based on temperature and humidity, so all the mayflies in a particular area will become mature at the same time.) So, as a young mayfly, asking a prospective mate out for dinner would be pretty much pointless even if you had the time.

It might seem kind of crazy evolving into a creature that only lives for a few hours and can’t do anything but fly around and try to have sex. But if that’s all you have to do, you can invest all your resources into ensuring that you reproduce, and if your whole generation is doing it at more or less the same time, your chances are pretty good. Plus, time is relative, and there are probably those who’d say that a life of just flying around and having sex would be okay. Assuming you didn’t get eaten by a walleye.

I’m going to put up a boring ol’ picture of a mayfly here, just so you know what to look for when you’re trying to avoid thousands-strong airborne orgies over the next couple of days. Hopefully, though, I’ll have some pictures of actual swarming mayflies soon. (I know where to find some, but if y’all are already on top of things, don’t hesitate to post your own!)