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Lights out at Veterans Memorial Bridge to combat mayflies

Junior Gonzalez
505-5439/@JuniorG_YD

Officials are learning from the past by turning off the lights on Route 462 over the Veterans Memorial Bridge to combat the resurgence of mayflies.

A swarm of mayflies hovers over the Route 462 bridge over the Susquehanna River late Saturday evening, June 13, 2015, between Columbia and Wrightsville, Pa. Authorities say the swarm was so dense that it caused a series of motorcycle crashes and prompted them to close the bridge. (Blaine Shahan/LNP via AP)

Lights on the Route 462 Bridge were turned off Saturday evening, according to the Wrightsville Fire & Rescue Co. 41 Fire Chief Chad Livelsberger.

Livelsberger said the lights are shut down to prevent as many mayflies from reaching the top of the bridge as possible.

"We need to work around nature a little," he said.

The mayflies are attracted to light, and after new light installations on Route 462 that are even brighter than before, officials didn't want to take a chance.

A swarm of mayflies hovers over the Route 462 bridge over the Susquehanna River late Saturday evening, June 13, 2015, between Columbia and Wrightsville, Pa. Authorities say the swarm was so dense that it caused a series of motorcycle crashes and prompted them to close the bridge. (Blaine Shahan/LNP via AP)

The decision to shut off the lights was made in coordination with the state and Wrightsville and Columbia boroughs, along with West Hempfield Township, according to Livelsberger.

The flies have caused issues in the past, including millions of mayfly carcasses, several inches deep, lying on the road days after the insect's quick life cycle. Livelsberger said more eggs are hatching because of healthier water on the Susquehanna River, which the bridge crosses.

One female mayfly can lay as many as 1,000 eggs, according to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologist Kris Kuhn.

Livelsberger called the sudden infestation a few years ago an "epidemic."

In 2015, three motorcycle accidents were attributed to the excess number of mayflies on the road.

While Livelsberger said he does not know how long the lights will be shut off, he said the lights have stayed off for as long as a month in the past.