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mated lovebugs on plant

Lovebugs – the bug we love to hate

Twice a year, two seasons, two months of misery as we try our best to avoid hitting the clouds of lovebugs in our car’s path.  Yes, it is that time of the year again when the well-known lovebugs are out in full force.

What are they?

Lovebugs are a species of fly and are also known as March flies.  Other nicknames given to the insect:  honeymoon fly, double-headed bug, and kissybug.  They are not native to Florida, but have been in the state since 1949.  Florida has two distinct lovebug seasons:  spring (April-May) and late summer (August-September).  The adult flights last for four to five weeks each season and although the insects are harmless, they can be a detriment to our cars.  The clouds of lovebugs along and near highways and roads can number in the hundreds of thousands.  As we drive through them, their tiny bodies splat against the grill, the hood, and the windshield.  If left for any period of time, the acidity from their bodies, especially the females egg masses, can etch car paint jobs.  They can also do damage by clogging car radiators as well as decrease driver visibility to a point where you would think  you were driving through a winter white-out, except it’s spring – in Florida.

What do they eat?

The insects are harmless other than being a major annoyance while driving, walking, jogging, or riding a bike.  They do not bite, sting, or cause us any real harm.  They are quite suited to our warm, humid climate. Lovebugs spend the majority of their life in the larval stage, living in grassy areas and feeding on dead vegetation and organic matter – living composters.

lovebug larvae

lovebug larvae
[photo credit: J.Castner, UF]

Once they pupate into an adult, the insects feed on flower nectar during their short life: three days for the males and up to seven days for females.  They definitely live up to their name – they spend the majority of their adult life in a mating love-hold.   The female usually mates with only one male, but there is fierce competition between males.  Aggregates of males can be seen trying to dislodge the chosen male so they can attempt to mate with the female.  The successful male stays attached to the female, even through death.  The male is only dislodged once the female is ready to lay her eggs.

What attracts them?

Warm Temperatures Required.  Lovebugs can only fly in temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, so they are active mainly between the hours of 10am and 4pm.  Besides heat, they are also attracted to exhaust fumes from cars and lawnmowers.  So, it should be no surprise to see swarms of lovebugs at busy traffic intersections during the day, surrounding idling cars waiting for the light to change.

mass of lovebugs on corner of house

lovebugs congregating on house [photo credit: L.Buss, UF]

Light Colors.  Adult lovebugs are attracted to light-colored surfaces and seem to be especially fond of freshly painted surfaces.  Many professional painters will refuse to paint a home’s exterior during lovebug season.  They may also refuse to paint the interior of a new build if it requires having to leave the doors and windows open.

Lovebug Controls

There are many biological controls of lovebug larvae but limited natural controls for the adults.  Birds, spiders, and other insect predators find the lovebug larvae quite tasty.  The adult lovebugs escape predations because of their acidic taste.  There are no insecticides labeled for use against the insect, so the best thing to do is prepare for the lovebug blitz.

How to Prepare for the Lovebug Blitz:
  • lovebugs splatted on car grill

    lovebugs splatted on car grill [photo credit: J.Castner, UF]

  • A good coat of wax on your car now will go a long way in protecting the car’s paint.
  • Use a hood air deflector or screen to reduce the number of bugs that make contact with your hood or windshield.
  • Carry additional water and a squeegee, towel, or paper towels in your car to wash the bugs off your windshield. Using your washer fluid and wipers will just smear bug parts across your window.
  • Try to avoid driving your car between 10am and 4pm
    lovebug splatter on car windshield

    lovebug splatter on car windshield [photo credit: J.Castner, UF]

 

How to Remove Lovebugs from your Car:
  • First thing to remember – You can avoid damage to the car’s paint if you remove the lovebug splatter within 20 minutes.
  • Use a high-pressure water spray to remove the bulk of the insects
  • Wash your car with warm, soapy water
  • For spot treatments– lay a wet towel across the bug splatters for approximately five minutes to soften and then gently scrub off the remaining bug parts
  • Place a wet dryer sheet across the splatters for five minutes then gently wipe up the bug parts. Be careful not to scrub – vigorous cleaning may scratch the paint job.
  • If lovebugs get into your car – resist the urge to squish. They can stain the upholstery.  Either capture and release or vacuum up the insect.

 

Although lovebugs can be quite frustrating to the daily commuter or the avid cyclist, the season is short and will be over in about five weeks.  So being proactive and taking steps to protect your car’s finish will help ease the frustrations of lovebug season.  We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful area, so just try and remind yourself that not a lovebug lasts forever!

Follow the link below to learn more about the lovebug:

UF/IFAS Featured Creatures: lovebugs, Plecia nearctica Hardy (Insecta: Diptera: Bibionidae)

 

 

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