‘Like insects waking to th’ advancing spring’

Trout Unlimited’s Bob Blankenship spotted this mayfly near the LA River. Spring is in the air. (Courtesy Bob Blankenship)
The mayfly has played a role throughout human history, appearing in the lower righthand corner of this famous Albrecht Dürer‘s engraving The Holy Family with the Mayfly, 1495. Lasting only a few hours, depending on the species, the mayfly symbolizes the transitoriness of life. (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)

In shoals the hours their constant numbers bring
Like insects waking to th’ advancing spring;
Which take their rise from grubs obscene that lie
In shallow pools, or thence ascend the sky:
Such are these base ephemeras, so born
To die before the next revolving morn.
— George Crabbe, “The Newspaper”, 1785

Mayflies are totally prehistoric, with their distinctive wing profile. More than 3,000 species make up the Ephemeroptera, a wonderful word I first read just recently in an old British tome about bugs on the water. If you have spent any time at your vise during the pandemic, I’ll bet you’ve tied more than a few dries, as well as imitations of the rest of their life cycle, which is mostly spent as a nymph.

See you on the water, Jim Burns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.