Every year in late spring, the mayflies swarm out of the St. Lawrence river and cover the city of Montreal in a blanket of fluttering wings. It lasts for a few days and then they are gone. Fortunately, mayflies don’t bite or sting. Their only annoyance comes from their sheer numbers and their absolute stupidity. All they do is show up and flutter, flutter, flutter, tirelessly and endlessly. They cover our cars and busses, they darken our windows, and they circle round and round your head until you think you’re going to lose your mind.

Last Friday evening I was holding court at Verses Sky, the terrace on the roof of the Hotel Nelligan in old Montreal. Everything was fine until about 7:30 PM, and then, as if someone flipped a switch, mayfly season opened.

Did I mention they’re stupid? They seemed fixated on the Carlsberg umbrellas. Every Carlsberg umbrella had a cloud of mayflies incessantly spinning in circles over its apex. It went on and on. Half an hour later it was still going on, except there were more of them.



By 8:15 it was out of control. Every umbrella had its own swarm, four times bigger than you see in these pictures, plus a handful of random un-umbrellaed tables had swirling balls of mayflies just above face level. People were smoking furiously in futile attempts to shoo them away, but they kept at it. There was no purpose to it; they’re not like mosquitos on the hunt for blood, or moths stupidly drawn to flame. No, they just picked random tables and went to town with their infinite and useless swirling.

We left. Even though our table was unbothered by the mayflies, their unending and futile flapping (not unlike SEO and social network marketing types on Twitter) was driving me nuts. So too was the lack of beer on tap (bottles only? WTF?); an inconvenience I was willing to put up with for the sake of the view. But with the sun setting and the mayflies threatening to smother us, off we went.

But that’s no reason to avoid Verses Sky. By the time you read this, mayfly season will likely be over.