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Catalina Island Conservancy

photo gallery

Photos by Carlos de la Rosa Chief Conservation and Education Officer
Catalina Island Conservancy


June 2008

Live Fast, Die Young

Insects, in general, have short lives.  Most butterflies, for example, live only a few weeks to a few months.  However, there are insects, like an African queen termite, that can live up to 50 years!  Among the short-lifers, aquatic insects are the champions.  Some, like mayflies and non-biting midges, only live for a few hours as adults - barely enough time to find a mate and produce the next generation.

These aquatic insects live dual lives, though.  While we normally see them as adults for very short periods of time, they also live as larvae in the water.  A mayfly or a midge may take several weeks or even months to go from an egg, through several larval stages, and onwards to the short-lived adult.  Midges, like all other members of the order Diptera (flies, mosquitoes and other insects with two wings) also go through a pupa stage, something similar to the chrysalis of butterflies.  Here, the tissues of the larva dissolve and change into the body parts of the adult to come.

Nevertheless, we are fascinated by these life histories and by facts like the ones explored in this month's photo gallery.  Stories like predatory dragonflies that catch their prey above the water as adults and below as larvae; or the tiny midges that don't even eat as adults, so preoccupied with mating and getting back to the water; or the damselfly that lays her eggs, while the protective male is still attached.