Common mayfly

Common Mayfly

Common Mayfly ©Margaret Holland

Common Mayfly

Common Mayfly ©Jon Hawkins

Common mayfly

Scientific name: Ephemera danica
Also known as the 'green drake mayfly', the common mayfly can be found around unpolluted wetlands, such as lakes and rivers. It has transparent, lacy wings and three long 'tails'.

Species information


Length: 1.5-3.0cm

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The common, or 'green drake', mayfly is one of 51 species of mayfly in the UK, and is on the wing from April until September (nymphs are present all year-round). Mayflies are common around freshwater wetlands, from fast-flowing rivers to still lakes, where the larvae spend their lives underwater, feeding on algae and plants. In the summer, the adults hatch out - sometimes simultaneously and in their hundreds; they have very short lives (just hours in some cases), during which they display and breed. Many species do not feed as adults as their sole purpose is to reproduce, dying once they have mated. The name 'mayfly' is misleading as many mayflies can be seen all year-round, although one species does emerge in sync with the blooming of hawthorn (or 'mayflower').

How to identify

Adult mayflies are delicate animals with broad, clear wings that have a lace-like appearance, very short antennae and up to three very long, fine tail bristles. They hold their wings vertically, closed over their backs. Mayfly larvae also have three 'tails'. The Common mayfly has a creamy-green abdomen with distinctive brown markings towards the rear end, three long, black tails, and translucent, spotted wings.



Did you know?

Fishing flies are made of feathers and are designed to look like various species of mayfly because they are a favourite food for Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon.