Florida’s “Love Bug” season is back.
Love bugs live in Florida year round, but only pose a problem for motorists in the spring and fall when they are in their short-lived adult stage.
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 only live about three to four days. The adult love bugs mate in flight, which is the origin of their nickname.
Love bug seasons usually lasts about three weeks, with the majority of adult love bugs hatching in May and September, although small numbers of the insects have been documented throughout the summer. The adults are most active between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and when temperatures are above 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
The weather can make a difference in the adult lovebug population. Dry years usually reduce the love bug numbers.
The insects are native to Central America. Due to environmental factors, over the course of the 20th Century, the love bugs migrated from Central America, 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 do not pose any environmental problems and in fact are beneficial to the environment, since they help break down thatch and other decaying vegetative matter. They do not bite or sting. The main problem with love bugs has to do with potential 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.
The insects are apparently attracted to diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes and the heat from pavement. They tend to swarm over highways and their bodies are splattered on passing motor vehicles.
A number of commercial products are on the market to help reduce the love bug damage to cars. A hood air deflector or screen can reduce the number of bugs that land on the front of the car. Screens can also be used to keep love bugs out of the engine. Regularly waxing a car can make it easier to remove the love bug residue. The fluids from love bug bodies can etch automobile paint, so it is important to remove the bugs as soon as possible. Soaking them with water will make them easier to remove.
The UF web site recommends, “Within about 20 minutes after a lovebug-filled drive, wash your car with water for about five minutes and then scrub it to remove most of the lovebugs without harm to automobile paint.”