It happens around this time every year in Florida. Seemingly out of nowhere, swarms of lovebugs (also known as honeymoon flies) take to the air across our yards and roadways. While harmless to people, they can be quite the nuisance. Despite their recurring appearance, few people actually know much about these flying insects – and rumors of their origins are rampant.
Lovebugs are relatively small black insects with a red to reddish-brown color highlighting the back of the thorax (upper body). Scientifically named Plecia nearctica, they do not bite or sting people, animals or other insects. As larvae, they feed on decaying plants; as adults, they feed on nectar. The adults generally live for only a few days. They truly are quite harmless, so why do they infuriate so many people?
During their major semi-annual mating flights, hundreds of thousands of lovebugs can fill the air in a given area. In Florida, these flights usually take place in late April/early May and late August/early September. There can also be a smaller flight in December.
While mating, male and female lovebug pairs link together for days at a time, flying together in a kind of slow drift. Walking through a cloud of lovebugs is no fun, but driving through them is what tends to really irritate us. Lovebugs don’t move out of the way of cars and their bodies don’t stand much of a chance against your grille, hood or windshield.
The results of hundreds of squished lovebug bodies decorating your vehicle aren’t just aesthetically unpleasing, they’re also quite damaging. The sheer volume of them can potentially clog your radiator intake, causing your car to overheat. There are also dangers with visual impairment related to their bodies obscuring windshields.
It’s the fluids from inside lovebugs’ bodies, however, that cause most people’s biggest complaint. They become pretty acidic after a short time, dissolving away your car’s paint job. To prevent paint damage as much as possible, be sure to keep a good coat of wax on your vehicle and wash the bodies off at every opportunity. The longer they’re on, the harder they are to wash off and the more damage they will do.
Some people blame lovebugs on scientists at the University of Florida in Gainesville! The myth claims lovebugs were genetically engineered by UF entomologists attempting to create a species of sterile female insects that would mate with male mosquitos, preventing them from creating offspring. Through that process, the scientists mistakenly created the lovebugs which somehow escaped into the wild. A fun story, but totally untrue.
Lovebugs are actually from Central America. They migrated through Texas and Louisiana, before making their way to Florida. They can now also be found in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia among other states, even into South Carolina. Still, Florida seems to be where their populations thrive.
While you’d probably prefer that lovebugs not visit twice a year, they’re much less harmful than many bugs that share our homes and yards year-round. Spiders, ants, fleas and other household pests present much bigger problems. So, have a little compassion for the lovebug…and remember to wash your car when they get in your way!