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Coffinfly (Ephemera guttulata)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Coffinfly

The sensitive Coffinfly's presence indicates the health of the nearby water source so if you see them, the water must be clean.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
At first glance, the Coffinfly appears physically similar to its Mayfly relatives. A long abdomen is tipped with long tail filaments, but the Coffinfly has three "tails" while other species have only two. Coffinflies are further set apart from mayflies by their dark-colored and patterned wings. Like dragonflies, Coffinflies live near slow-moving or still water sources like ponds, creeks, small rivers and shallow lakes. Adults can be found by the hundreds of thousands from the spring to summer if the water source is clean and unpolluted. Coffinflies originally got their name because some species were once found in exhumed coffins.

The Coffinfly undergoes a series of molts (phase changes) as it matures to its adult form. Early larvae look like small versions of lobsters, or crayfish, and they live this early life stage completely under water. They burrow into the sediment or sand at the bottom of the pond or lake, and feed on algae and plant matter. Because they are still developing while living in water, larvae can be indicators of a water system's cleanliness. Even moderate levels of pollution have been known to destroy a local population of larvae.

One intermediate life phase, called the subimago, includes the formation of wings and tiny hairs that start to prevent them from submerging under water. Anglers call this phase a "dun" and may use it - or plastic replications of it - as bait to catch certain species of fish that naturally feed on duns. After another molt, it becomes a more mature adult called an imago, which is also known as a "spinner" to anglers. Fully-developed adults are land-bound and do not feed. Their life span at this stage is very short, leaving only enough time to reproduce before dying. Adults are attracted to lights and may end up clustering on them just before dying, leaving people to find hundreds of dead ones on the ground. ©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Coffinfly

algae and organic sources
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Ephemeroptera
        Family: Ephemeridae
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          Genus: Ephemera
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            Species: guttulata

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Ephemera guttulata
Other Name(s): Shad Fly, Green Drake
Category: Mayfly
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 23mm (0.70" to 0.90")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white; black; gray
Descriptors: tail; flying; water

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 18mm (0.7in) and 23mm (0.9in)
Lo: 18mm
Md: 20.5mm
Hi: 23mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Coffinfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Coffinfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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