Love bugs have arrived

OKEECHOBEE — The bane of any motorist in the Lake Okeechobee area normally happens twice a year. Those stinky little suckers have already arrived, just in time for the spring driving season. I’m talking about the amorous little black flying insects known locally as “love bugs.”

With the scientific name of “plecia nearctica,” the love bug is a species of march fly found originally in parts of Central America and later in the southeastern United States, especially along the Gulf Coast. It is also known as the honeymoon fly or double-headed bug.

What is your favorite way to take love bugs off your paint and car windshield? Comment below.  Photo courtesy UF IFAS.

The best guess as to how they came to these United States places them as undiscovered stowaways who arrived by ship in Galveston or New Orleans around 1920 from a port in Central America. They migrated into Florida in 1947 from Louisiana and decided to stay, much to the dismay of the folks who live in Florida.

The bugs only have a lifespan of about 56 hours, but they don’t all hatch at once, so the influx of bugs lasts a month to six weeks. They normally are not too active in the morning, until the temperature reaches around 80 degrees, so you don’t see nearly as many on the morning commute as you do in the afternoons.

This time of year, all you can do is deal with the little buggers. The good news is, that love bugs don’t bite or sting. The bad news is, they are attracted to auto exhaust, and as such tend to congregate on the roads and highways around Okeechobee. Driving though a swarm of love bugs can quickly kill the visibility through your windshield, but most times you don’t want to try to wash them off with your windshield wipers as it just leaves a streaked mess. It is better to get stopped and wash them off with a lot of soap and water.

They can also clog a radiator on a car, and cause overheating, if not hosed out from time to time. Additionally, their little black corpses can quickly ruin the finish on a new car if left to bake in the sun.

So, what can you do? Some of the folks here will clean their car or truck and then spray cooking spray on the grill and front of the hood, and above the windshield (not on the glass) to make it a little easier to get the bugs off, telling you that the “splat” from the bug is actually fat. Others, like myself use a good coat of paste wax, a couple of coats, on the painted portions of the front of the car or truck, to try and protect the paint. I also have an “auto bra” for the front of my truck that covers the front of the hood, grill and bumper, that is pretty effective in keeping the bugs off. But I will put it on only for the time of the hatch, as it will tend to mark the paint, the same way the bugs do, if left on too long.

So, it seems the answer is, this time of year, you have to just shake your head and try to get through it. Oh, and don’t breath through your mouth, they will fly into an open mouth, and while not poisonous, they don’t taste very good.

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