By Jennifer Pelham, UF/IFAS Osceola County Extension
Just like clockwork – they’re back. Every May and September, we can rely on those pesky black bugs to once again splat against our windshields. What are they? Plecia nearetica, otherwise known as lovebugs. But, don’t believe those rumors you hear. The University of Florida did not release the love bugs as a biological control for mosquitoes.
Lovebugs migrated from Mexico along the Gulf coast. Southern Louisiana experienced flights of lovebugs during the 1920s, and Mississippi collected samples from the 1940s. First reports of their presence in Florida were made in 1947.
Two generations of lovebugs occur each year. The adult populations take flight during May and September and are present for approximately four weeks. Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence of the females, since adult females live only a few days. During the mating process, the male lovebug attaches to the female and only separates during the daytime while resting on vegetation. They never separate during flight or at night. Successful mating takes as long as 12 hours, and the female dies within 86 hours of laying eggs.
You have probably noticed that lovebugs like to hang around gas stations. Automobile exhaust fumes, heat from the engines and the vibrations of the vehicles actually attract lovebugs, which often splatter against the front of your car. A buildup on the radiator may cause cars to overheat, their bodies on the windshield can reduce driver visibility, and fluid from their bodies can damage paint.
Washing lovebug carcasses from vehicles within one day will help to reduce paint damage. Lovebugs are more easily removed, and the chance of damaging the finish is lessened, if the car has been recently waxed. When lovebugs are numerous, some motorists spread a light film of baby oil over the front of the hood, above the windshield and on the grill and bumper. This practice will make removal a simpler task.
Adult lovebugs are harmless and do not sting or bite. They feed on the nectar of various plants, especially clover, goldenrod and Brazilian pepper. Lovebugs are also beneficial to our environment, but that is true only during their immature life stage. Larvae feed on thatch in the lawn. Thatch is a layer of decaying organic material between the grass roots and leaf blades. If it builds up in the lawn, it can cause problems for the grass. Through this process they redistribute essential nutrients back into the soil, benefiting plants.
Information for this article was taken from the UF/IFAS publication Lovebugs in Florida. For more information on gardening, contact the Osceola County Master Gardeners at 321-697-3000.