Lake Okeechobee area residents are once again dealing with the mess the swarms of love bugs hovering about roadways leave on vehicles. Actually, the pesky insects never really left. Love bugs (whose scientific name is Plecia nearctica Hardy) have a six-month life cycle. Most of their lives are spent as larva, eating decaying vegetative matter in cow pastures, along roadsides and in other grassy areas. According to University of Florida research, pupa stage (or cocoon) stage lasts seven to nine days and the winged adult love bugs live only about three days to four days.
The adult love bugs mate in flight, which is the origin of their nickname.
Love bug seasons usually last about three weeks, with the majority of adults hatching in May and September; small numbers of the insects have been documented throughthe summer. They’remost active between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and when it’s above 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bugs are native to Central America. Due to environmental factors over the 20th century, the love bugs migrated through Texas and Louisiana and then into Florida, according to the UF researchers. The bugs were first documented in Florida in 1949 in Escambia County.
Love bugs in fact are beneficial to the environment, since they help break down thatch and other decaying vegetative matter. They are harmless to humans.
The main problem with love bugs has to do with damage to automobiles. “Large numbers of lovebugs can reduce visibility, etch automobile paint, and cause liquid-cooled engines to overheat,” states the UF web site. They’re apparently attracted to diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes and the heat from pavement. They tend to swarm over highways. Regularly waxing a car can make it easier to remove their bodies, but their fluids can etch car paint, so it is important to remove the bugs as soon as possible — within about 20 minutes, UF says.