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Welcome to Love Bug Season

May 8, 2013

Expect a quick trip on the expressway to leave your car a bespattered mess this month. The love bugs are back. They’ll be ruining your paint job, following you as you walk outside — and smelling just awful when you smash them. Although harmless where human and animal health is concerned, they will invade your personal space and here in the U.S. they are designated an invasive species.

001_Plecia_nearctica_lovebugContrary to popular myth, their presence here was not the result of an experiment-gone-wrong at the University of Florida. Nor were they a failed method of mosquito control, reared by the United States Department of Agriculture. No, they migrated from Central America into Texas, then spread east all along the Gulf Coast. Today, they can be found throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The bugs are actually fairly benign where human, animal and plant health is concerned. Pesky as they may be when flying as adults, they’re actually beneficial in their immature stage, according to Tom Fasulo, an extension entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. During this stage of their lifecycle, they live on the ground, covered in thatch from newly mowed grass. There they live and eat, supporting plants and the environment by redistributing essential nutrients back into the ground.

A love bug-spattered mess.
Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

But in their mature stage, lovebugs are the bane of motorists. They swarm the highways because they are actually attracted to diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes,  hot engines and the vibrations of automobiles. You might want to consider the fact that they tend to fly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when scheduling road trips.

To protect your paint job, wash your car as soon as possible after it gets splattered with lovebugs. Florida natives have discovered many methods of removing lovebugs, including using dryer sheets and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Pam cooking spray and lamp oil.

Lovebugs will likely be with us through the month of May. And don’t be complacent when they finally disappear. They’ll  be back in September.

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