An international group of entomologists has bestowed its greatest honor for 2021: Insect of the Year. The recipient is the fascinating Danish Mayfly. But it won’t have long to celebrate its 15 minutes of fame.
The Danish Mayfly, or Ephemera danica, lives only a few days. In that time, it must emerge from a watery birthplace, mature, learn to fly, find a mate, and lay new eggs. Whew!
God tells us that all our time here is fleeting, and even human existence on Earth lasts just a blink compared to eternity. 1 Peter 1:23-25 says, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” The short-lived mayfly is a good reminder of how momentary physical existence can be—but for believers, that’s not a hopeless reminder. As Peter emphasizes at the start of verse 23, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable.” A Christian’s purpose and identity never ceases—even after physical death.
About 140 species of mayflies live in Central Europe. Despite the short life of the final larval and adult forms of the mayfly, the entire developmental cycle is quite long. Female mayflies zigzag over water between May and September, laying thousands of eggs that then sink. Larvae hatch within a few days and eventually form gills. But they remain buried in riverbeds, taking between one and three years to develop before emerging.
“Shortly before the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life, a layer of air forms between the old and new skin,” says Dr. Thomas Schmitt. He is the director of the Senckenberg German Entomological Institute in Muencheberg, east of Berlin, Germany. That air pocket helps the larva rise to the surface. “Once there, the larval skin bursts, and within a few seconds, a flyable mayfly hatches.”
The fully developed mayfly has no mouth and no functioning digestive system. So it has only a few days to find a mate and lay new eggs before it dies. And that, apparently, is worth recognizing with a prestigious scientific title: Insect of the Year 2021.
(A Danish Mayfly perches on a twig near the water it emerged from. A German entomological society has named this mayfly Insect of the Year for 2021. Wolfgang Kleinsteuber via AP)