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March Brown Mayfly (Maccaffertium vicarium)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the March Brown Mayfly

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The March Brown Mayfly adult is short-lived, but its very presence is a sign that the water is clean and the fish will be biting.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Mayflies are generally a good indicator of water quality. The early part of a Mayfly's life is under water, and they do not thrive in polluted streams, creeks, or other aquatic habitats. March Brown Mayflies are a popular food source for fish, especially trout, so anglers are keen to recognize them by appearance, behavior, and life stage. Such knowledge increases one's likelihood of catching fish by using a fishing lure that matches the present species of Mayfly.

Four general life stages are present in the March Brown: egg, nymph, subimago, and imago. Huge swarms form, usually over water, which have occasionally caused a commotion in more developed areas where people are not used to seeing them. After briefly mating in the air, females lay fertilized eggs at the water's surface. The newly hatched nymphs resemble crustaceans with large jaws. They search out slower-moving waters and feed for over a year until they crawl on land to molt into a more familiar winged Mayfly form. The early winged form of Mayfly is called a subimago by biologists, and a dun by anglers, and it is not able reproduce yet. Another molt produces the sexually mature adult, called an imago by biologists, and a spinner by anglers. A spinner gets its name from the circular swimming motion that results from flapping its wings on the water's surface. After laying eggs, females die and their bodies, almost transparent in water, float on the surface. Fish love eating Mayflies, and are very active during a spinner fall, when the Mayflies drop dead after reproducing. A swarm is an indication that some good fishing may be coming soon to that area.

March Browns and Gray Foxes were once considered separate Mayfly species, and even differ a little in appearance, but they are now known to be the same. The Gray Fox form seems to develop a little later than the March Brown form. Both are great for fishing. Though the adult lifespan of the March Brown Mayfly is short (just about a day), the presence of adults and swarms can last for a week as fully grown nymphs leave the water to molt.©InsectIdentification.org

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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: Heptageniidae
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          Genus: Maccaffertium
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            Species: vicarium

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Maccaffertium vicarium
Other Name(s): March Brown Dun, Gray Fox Dun, March Brown Spinner, American March Brown,
Category: Mayfly
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 16mm (0.35" to 0.62")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; tan; black
Descriptors: flying; lights; swarm; congregate

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 16mm (0.6in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 12.5mm
Hi: 16mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the March Brown Mayfly 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 March Brown Mayfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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