Invasion of the mayflies

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

The pungent odor of dead fish has loomed in the air above Water Avenue over the past few days, causing passers-by to hold their breath and quickly make their way to their destination.

There is nothing wrong with the Alabama River to cause such a strong smell. The culprit is a tiny white-winged bug and a million or so of its closest relatives.

The mayflies have once again made an appearance in Selma to fulfill their only goal in life: mate, lay eggs and die &045;&045; all within a few hours.

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Along the way, they also cause a big mess. Dead mayfly carcasses cover the streets, sidewalks and gutters in massive amounts.

Pedestrians are not thrilled to be walking across the slippery surfaces.

Business owners along Water Avenue say this has been the worst visit from the mayflies they have seen in a long time.

What usually only occurs for three or four days a year has now been going on for a week.

Even City Hall has gotten into the act. Heather McIntyre, secretary to Mayor James Perkins Jr., estimated that the mayor’s office had fielded &uot;about 4 billion calls&uot; concerning the pesky critters.

But while the denizens of City Hall may tremble when Mayor James Perkins Jr. walks by, hizzoner appears powerless to stop the onslaught of love-crazed mayflies.

Plan B in the city’s counterattack against the mayfly invasion involved a more low-tech approach.

Fire Chief Henry Allen of the Selma Fire Department had his crews taking shovels and fire hoses to the invaders Wednesday.

It was a tough job &045;&045; and, frankly, more than a little disgusting. But somebody had to do it. Selma firefighters shoveled and hosed for hours to help rid the area of the dead mayflies. &uot;I didn’t know I would be doing something like this when I signed up,&uot; joked firefighter Michael Pettus.

Allen said the city will be turning off the lights on Water Avenue and the Edmund Pettus Bridge to help combat the growing mayfly problem.

The story has a bright side.

County environmental officials say the large mayfly population indicates the Alabama River is clean and has a healthy ecosystem.

While the bugs may be sign the local environment is in good shape, the majority of citizens will be glad to see the mayflies gone.