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Love-Hate Relationship

May 18, 2012

Photo courtesy of UF-IFAS

Love bugs: Enemy No.1 for many folks here in the South.

They ruin your pristinely detailed car (revered jalopy), follow you everywhere you go (and I mean everywhere), and they smell awful when you squish them (which is inevitable because, again, they are EVERYWHERE). Talk about a love-hate relationship – or shall I say a hate-lovebug relationship.

Just where did these pesky creatures come from and what purpose do they serve?

Harmless? Yes, technically speaking. But this insect who constantly invades your personal space, is considered invasive in America. Lovebugs were not the result of an experiment at the University of Florida gone wrong. Nor are they a remedy of mosquito control reared by the United States Department of Agriculture. Lovebugs naturally emigrated from Central America into Texas, and spread east all along the Gulf Coast. They can be found throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

According to Tom Fasulo, an extension entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, lovebugs are beneficial to the environment. However, they are only beneficial when they are in their immature stage. During this stage of their lifecycle, they live in an area on the ground covered in excess grass, the result of a fresh cut. This covering, known as thatch, is where immature lovebugs live and eat, redistributing essential nutrients back into the ground that are beneficial to plants and the environment.

Photo courtesy of UF-IFAS

But these creatures can be hazardous to the environment as well – when they are swarming your car, that is. As it turns out, lovebugs are attracted to the diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes. According to UF-IFAS, hot engines and the vibrations of automobiles contribute to the attraction of lovebugs to highways. To avoid paint chipping, wash your car as soon as possible after it gets splattered with lovebugs. There are many methods of removing lovebugs, ranging from dryer sheets and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, to Pam cooking spray and lamp oil. Please share with us your method of removing these pesky critters.

So the next time you encounter this said-enemy, which will likely be in May or September between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., refrain from the massive swatting and smashing. Your efforts of minimizing this pesky population are in vain. May you have a safe and lovebug-free summer!

 

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