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Every year from late spring to early summer, an incredible natural spectacle transforms Hungary's Tisza River. Millions of long-tailed mayflies, or Palingenia longicauda, rise in huge clouds from the river, flutter on the surface of the water, mate and perish, all in just a few hours. The unique event which lasts for three to four days, is frequently referred to as “blooming of the Tisza”, and is amongst the most fascinating natural phenomena in European rivers.

Palingenia longicauda also known as the Tisa or Tisza mayfly after the European Tisza river where it is found, is the largest mayfly species in Europe, measuring 12 cm from head to tail. The insect spends most of their life-time – 3 years – developing as a larvae in the mud at the bottom of the river. After hatching the male adults only have a few hours to find a female and mate with her before they die. To do this, the male will glide down the river, trying to impregnate one of the females on the surface of the river. After mating, the female mayflies will fly over the surface of the river several kilometers upstream to compensate for downstream larval drift and laying their eggs along the way. The eggs drift to the bottom and after 45 days hatch into larvae, which dig tunnels in the mud forming dense colonies up to 400 per square foot. After three years, the larvae break for the surface and the adult mayfly appears. After they have fully matured, mayflies have roughly three hours before they die.

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Photo credit: Reuters

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© Amusing Planet, 2013.


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