Hungarian police, wildlife authorities and environmentalists joined forces to improve protection for the habitats of the so-called Tisza mayfly, (Palingenia longicauda), one of the national ecological treasures of the country.
Also known as the long-tailed mayfly, this rare insect variety is the largest among its peers, measuring 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) from head to tail. These insects usually hatch in mid-June and have a lifespan of about two hours, during which time the males mate with a female, which subsequently lay their eggs near a river. Their larvae incubate for three years in the mud before beginning their short life.
The Tisza mayfly is a good indicator of water quality and only found on the relatively unpolluted stretches of the Tisza River in parts of Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia as well as the Prut and Bega rivers in Romania and the Ukrina river in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Their mating is called the “blooming of the Tisza” and is a major tourist attraction.
Beginning with June 13 this year, river police on the Tisza are running daily patrols on the river, and ship traffic is limited to 15 kilometers an hour so as not to disturb the natural mating phenomenon. Gábor Nagy, wildlife warden of Hortobágy National Park told Magyar Nemzet that the spring drought this year has brought the mating period forward and fishermen are the biggest threat to the insects.
Speeding through a swarm in a motor boat can kill dozens of insects, which are also the only lure that can catch the sturgeons present in the same waters. Due to their rarity, even collecting the bodies of the dead mayflies requires a permit. Anyone knowingly capturing or killing a live insect is susceptible to a fine of 150,000 forints (€431), while the inadvertent destruction of a hatching site is a criminal offense, as is collecting more than ten of the insects.
Title image: A mayfly hatching on the Tisza river in southern Hungary. (source: Andor Elekes Derzsi, Wikimedia Commons)