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Tisza Mayfly and ‘Tisza Blooming’ Become Hungaricums as National Values

Fanni Kaszás 2020.05.25.

According to the decision of the Hungaricum Committee, the collection of Hungaricums will be enriched in the future with four additional natural and traditional key values, including the Tisza mayflies and their famous mating, the so-called Tisza blooming, which over the years has become a tourist attraction.

Every year, many tourists arrive to the River Tisza to see the ‘Tisza blooming,’ the mating of the Tisza mayflies in June, when large numbers of the larvae of the aquatic insect usually hatch and mature during a single week. It is a protected natural habitat and landscape, and is unique not only in Hungary, but also in the world.

photo: Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI

Even Aristotle mentioned the short-lived insects, famous for their beautiful mass mating dance, and called them Ephemeron (living but for a day). In Hungary, Marsigli was the first to observe the bloom of the Tisza.

The mayfly (Palingenia longicauda) is the largest European variety, with a light brown color. Female Tisza mayflies usually lay about 7-8000 eggs on the surface of the water, and their development lasts for 3 years. The end of this triggers the mating, the so-called Tisza blooming, which is most undisturbed in warm, windless weather.

Males begin their adult life of a few hours or half a day after flying ashore. Females appear a little later and they only care about finding their partner, they don’t even feed. During the most spectacular part of their mating, millions of mayflies fly over the river Tisza, in a beautiful dance. It happens in the late afternoon and evening, approximately between 18-21 hours.

photo: János Bugány/MTI

In addition to the fact that the Tisza blooming is an extremely spectacular event, it also has important ecological significance. Mayflies serve as food for many species of fish, birds, and frogs.

The mayfly became extinct in Western Europe in the first third of the 1900s, and its numbers also declined significantly in Central Europe in recent decades. Today, they can only be found in mass numbers at the river Tisza in Hungary.

Climate change has played a large role in such a drastic reduction in the number of the insects, but anthropological effects such as river regulations, riverbed alterations, plastic bank protection of riverbanks, and river pollution have also been contributing factors.

featured photo: János Bugány/MTI