Those Pesky Florida Love Bugs
The lovebug, Plecia nearctica, is a member of the family of March flies. It is also known as the Honeymoon fly, Kissing bug or Double-headed bug. The adult is a small, flying insect common to parts of Central America and the southeastern United States, especially along the Gulf Coast. During and after mating, adult pairs remain coupled, even in flight, for several days.
The lovebug was first described in 1940 by D. E. Hardy of Texas. At that time, he reported the incidence of lovebugs to be widespread, but most common in Texas and Louisiana. However, by the end of the 20th century the species had spread heavily to all areas bordering the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Georgia, and South Carolina often reaching altitudes of 300 to 450 metres (980 to 1,480 ft) and extending several kilometers over the Gulf.
The larvae (maggots) feed on partially decayed vegetation in the landscape and, in this respect, are beneficial. Adults feed only on nectar during their brief lifespan.
Lovebug flights can number in the hundreds of thousands. The slow, drifting movement of the insects is almost reminiscent of snow fall except the flies also rise in the air. Two major flights occur each year, first in late spring, then again in late summer. In South Florida, a third (but smaller) flight can occur in December. The spring flight occurs during late April and May, the Summer flight during late August and September. Flights extend over periods of four to five weeks. Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence of the females. Adult females live only three to four days, while males live a little longer.
This species' reputation as a public nuisance is due not to any bite or sting (it is incapable of either), but to its slightly acidic body chemistry. Because airborne lovebugs can exist in enormous numbers near highways, they die en masse on automobile windshields, hoods, and radiator grills when the vehicles travel at high speeds. If left for more than an hour or two, the remains become dried and extremely difficult to remove. Their body chemistry has a nearly neutral 6.5 pH but may become acidic at 4.25 pH if left on the car for a day. In the past, the acidity of the dead adult body, especially the female's egg masses, often resulted in pits and etches in automotive paint and chrome if not quickly removed. However, advances in automotive paints and protective coatings have reduced this threat significantly. Now the greatest concern is excessive clogging of vehicle radiator air passages with the bodies of the adults, with the reduction of the cooling effect on engines, and the obstruction of windshields when the remains of the adults and egg masses are smeared on the glass.
Lovebug adults are attracted to light-colored surfaces, especially if they are freshly painted, but the adults can congregate almost anywhere by reacting to the effects of sunlight on automobile fumes, asphalt, and other products affected by environmental factors still not completely understood.
Urban legend holds that love bugs are synthetic—the result of a University of Florida genetics experiment gone wrong.
Speculation about the lovebug abounds.
While lovebugs are not a favored food of most insectivores due to their acidic taste, lovebug larvae—and some adults—are food for birds such as quail and robins. Arthropod predators include spiders, some predatory insects such as earwigs and at least two species of beetle larvae, and a centipede.
Photo Attribute: Creative Commons/Wikimedia Commons - Wikifrosch.
Female lovebugs can lay up to 350 eggs at a time which which they deposit underneath decaying vegetation.
Lovebugs do not sting or bite, and their flights are restricted to daylight hours and temperatures above 68°F.
Lovebugs are a major nuisance to motorists. They congregate in unbelievable numbers along highways and the insects spatter on the windshields and grills of moving trucks and automobiles. Windshields become covered with the fatty remains, and vision is obscured. During flights, the fli.
There are several things that can be done to lessen the problem facing motorists. By traveling at night motorists can avoid the insects; lovebugs reach peak activity at 10:00 am and stop flying at dusk. Traveling at slower speeds will reduce the number of bugs that will be spattered. A large screen placed in the front of the grill will keep the radiator fins from clogging, and will protect the finish on the front of the car. If a large screen is not used in front of the grill, at least place a small screen behind the grill in front of the radiator.
Spattered bugs should be washed off the car as soon as possible. Lovebugs are more easily removed, and the chance of damaging the car's finish is lessened if the car has been waxed recently. When the remains are left on an unwaxed car for several days, the finish will often be permanently damaged. Soaking for several minutes with water aids in their removal. When lovebugs are numerous, some motorists spread a light film of baby oil over the front of the hood, above the windshield and on the grill and bumper. This practice will make their removal a simpler task. The fatty tissue will cause pitting of the car's finish if it is not removed within a few days.
Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida
Are Florida 'love bugs' the result of a genetic experiment gone wrong?
The Urban Myth:
From the internet and circulating emails...
"Love Bugs are actually man-made. Scientists were genetically engineering females of a species of insect that would mate with the male mosquito, but be sterile and produce no offspring. Unfortunately, they accidentally also created a male Love Bug, and a pair somehow escaped into the wild."
Love bugs are not the result of a genetic cloning experiment gone wrong, and Love bugs do not eat mosquitos.
Love bug home remedies:
- Coca-Cola: Some folks call this their last resort. They figure the cola acids will melt away the guts on the bumper. Apply with a soft cloth, scrub and watch the magic happen.
- Dryer sheets: Grab one from the laundry room and rub.
- WD-40: Some swear by greasy items like motor oil and WD-40. Post car wash, apply to your bumper with a cloth.
- Baby Oil: wipe it on your bumper, grill and hood. It will make the pesky critters easier to peel off.
- Spraying your car with Pam.
- Try Bug Goo.
- A good coat of wax helps prevent the bugs from sticking too bad.
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