Mushrooms and Their Fly Associates

This cluster of mushrooms grew from our path wood mulch in early August. The long hyphae strands emerging from the mushroom gills caught my eye as I was walking by.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed tiny flies that were attracted to the sticky hyphae. These flies are a type of midge (most likely from the family Cecidomyiidae) with their characteristic tiny heads.

The midges will collect spores on their bodies and help in the propagation of these mushrooms (or whatever fungal species the hyphae belongs to).

Another type of mushroom that has emerged from the wood mulch in the yard in the last week is the Eastern Stinkhorn Mushroom (Phallus ravenelii). This photo shows the white egg-like cases in which the mature mushroom emerges from. These could be easy to mistake for snapping turtle eggs but it's the wrong time of year for those.

Here the Stinkhorn has emerged, with an older casing to its left.

Stinkhorns are aptly named for their strong mushroom-feces odor. This wonderful smell attracts flies and other carrion loving insects.

The slimy spore mass of the green Stinkhorn tip is a delicacy for the Vinegar Fly (Drysophila melanogaster). These flies will also help in the propagation of the Stinkhorn, carrying off the spores on their feet and limbs.