Burrowing mayflies (Hexagenia spp.) are native to western Lake Erie and were abundant until the 1950s, when they disappeared due to degraded water and sediment quality. Nymphs were absent from the sediments of most of western Lake Erie after the 1950s, although small, widely disjunct populations apparently persisted near shore. Sediment samples collected in 1993 revealed several small populations near the western and southern shores and beyond the mouths of the Detroit and Maumee rivers. A larger population was found in the southern island area, but nymphs were absent in the middle of the basin. By 1995, nymphs had spread throughout the western half and eastern end of the basin but remained absent from the middle of the basin. These data indicate that Hexagenia began recolonizing nearshore areas before offshore areas. Increasingly large swarms of winged Hexagenia on shore and over the lake between 1992 and 1994 further indicate that mayflies are recolonizing the basin. Factors that have permitted Hexagenia recovery in western Lake Erie probably include improved sediment and water quality attributed to pollution abatement programs implemented after the early 1970s, and perhaps environmental changes in the early 1990s attributed to effects of the exotic zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).
Additional publication details
Recovery of burrowing mayflies (Ephemeroptera: Ephemeridae: Hexagenia) in western Lake Erie