By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
It is true, Florida has flying bugs and some really are a nuisance. Unfortunately, Hurricane Hermine has not helped matters by dumping excessive rain on the area.
A top candidate for Florida’s Prime Airborne Pest, the mosquito, is effectively using the excess moisture to its advantage. However another late summer entry into the contest is making a big impact area wide.
The Lovebug (Plecia nearctica) population is leaving its mark, at least on vehicles. Contrary to the urban myth, a group of Gator loving carwash owners did not release this irritating insect for nefarious intent.
Lovebugs originated in Central America, but migrated north. By 1949 they had reached Escambia County and today are found in every Florida County.
Embellishing the finish of automobile and trucks is this insect’s seeming specialty. They have a justifiable reputation for etching vehicle paint at the point of impact, with a combination of chemical compounds at work.
Their body fluids are slightly acidic and capable of slowly damaging auto paint. Bacterial action on the Lovebug’s remains intensifies the acidity if they remain on the vehicle for several days.
These creatures have an ill-fated attraction to diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes. Hot engines and vehicle vibrations may also contribute to the demise of many unlucky singles and pairs.
Post-appearance chemical control of Lovebugs is pointless. Adult males live for two to three days or a bit longer and females may live for a week, if they are lucky enough to avoid roadways.
April through May is the largest population emergence of Lovebugs in spring, but this species has been collected in Florida every month of the year except November.
The females lay approximately 350 gray, irregularly-shaped eggs in or on the soil surface under partially decayed vegetable matter which is used for food and shelter. Slate-gray larvae are often found in groups where moisture under the decaying vegetation is constantly present, but not excessive.
One of the few positive byproducts of the heavy rains and standing waters recently experienced in Wakulla County is many of the larvae will drown. Unfortunately, standing water does encourage other problems in addition to mosquitos.
Not as well know, but just as infamous is the Yellow Fly. This Horse Fly and Deer Fly relative is a tenacious pest with a vicious and painful bite.
As with many other biting or stinging insects, it is the female Yellow Fly which bites. She uses knife like mandibles to access the blood of her victims, and is not particular about the source.
The autumn hatch is currently underway which creates a sudden population eruption, but Yellow Flies have been active all summer. They are active during the daylight hours in shade or full sun.
Females deposit egg masses on plants, rocks, sticks or other similar objects usually over water or other favorable larval habitat. Eggs are deposited throughout the life cycle of the female.
After five to 12 days, the eggs hatch and the young larvae drop into the water or mud where they feed on organic debris or prey on other small aquatic organisms. The yellow flies emerge from the larvae stage ready to begin feeding on livestock, pets and people.
No matter weather conditions of the year, there will always be some sort of flying insect pest.