When James Deaton arrived Tuesday night at a Shell gas station in Beattyville, mayflies were everywhere—on cars, people, the overhead lights.
Deaton, 26, ran inside the Apple Market station and was still brushing the bugs off his clothes when he returned to his car. This happens about twice a year in the town bordered by the North Fork Kentucky River in Lee County, Deaton said.
“Everything was covered,” Deaton said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this bad.”
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H.B. Elkins, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Highways District 10, which covers Lee County, said the flies swarm this particular gas station once or twice a year for the past 20 years.
“From what I can tell, it seems to be a lot worse this year, and I don’t know why,” Elkins said.
This year’s relatively mild winter may be the cause of the insects’ high population, Elkins added.
The Apple Market sits near the river bank and seems to be the designated gathering spot for the Mayflies every year. Elkins said he used to live down the hill from the gas station and would see the swarms gather at the station, where they were likely attracted to the bright lights.
They sometimes show up around other buildings as well, Elkins said, but never as bad as at the Apple Market.
“We have never had a highway issue with the mayfly infestation there at the bridge adjacent to the Shell, but there have been instances of it in other states,” Elkins said. “Two years ago, the US 52 bridge crossing the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois was covered by them and they had to get snowplows out to clear the bridge.”
University of Kentucky Department of Entomology extension specialist Blake Newton said these swarms happen when conditions are “just right,” especially around lakes and rivers.
“One of the interesting things about mayflies is they don’t feed,” Newton said.
Once they hatch and emerge from the water, the adult flies typically live for a few days to mate in swarms like the one at the Apple Market before they die.
The swarms typically stay around in Beattyville for two or three days, Deaton said. Though he hasn’t returned to the Apple Market today, Deaton said others have seen the swarms.
Emma Austin: (859) 231-1455