Mayfly larvae are, rather prettily, called nymphs. Mayflies live in every part of the world except the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Up to 700 species live in North America. The presence of mayflies around freshwater rivers, lakes and ponds is a good sign of the water's health, as these insects are sensitive to pollution. Mayflies live longer as larvae than they do as adult mayflies, who may live for only hours to days. In the water, larvae have a varied diet -- if they aren't eaten by fish or frogs.
Mayfly Larvae Diet
In general, mayfly nymphs are not picky eaters. They take what they can, when they can. Hence they are known as detritivores as well as herbivores. Typically, they feed on algae, which they collect by grazing among stones and weeds. Some mayfly species have adaptations that allow them to eat small food particles and some of the larger species can be carnivorous and prey on other aquatic insects.
Adults don't feed at all. It takes anything from a few months to a year for the adult to emerge, but it then has a matter of hours to mate and reproduce before dying.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.