May brings return of love bug season

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/UF/IFAS
Love bugs are commonly seen in May and September.

SOUTH FLORIDA — Just as Florida started the first phase of reopening non-essential businesses, those on the roadways found themselves dealing with the annual menace of love bug season.

Twice a year, swarms of love bugs hover around roadways and splatter themselves on vehicles. Love bugs (whose scientific name is Plecia nearctica Hardy) have a six-month life cycle. Most of their lives are spent as larva, eating decaying vegetative matter in cow pastures, along roadsides and in other grassy areas. According to University of Florida research, pupa (or cocoon) stage lasts seven to nine days and the winged adult love bugs live only about three days to four days.

(Unless they fly in your path and end up on your windshield.
The adult love bugs mate in flight, which is the origin of their nickname.
Love bug seasons usually last about three weeks, with the majority of adults hatching in May and September; small numbers of the insects have been documented through the summer. They’re most active between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and when it’s above 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bugs are native to Central America. Due to environmental factors over the 20th century, the love bugs migrated through Texas and Louisiana and then into Florida, according to the UF researchers. The bugs were first documented in Florida in 1949 in Escambia County.

Love bugs are in fact, beneficial to the environment, since they help break down thatch and other decaying vegetative matter. They are harmless to humans.

The main problem with love bugs has to do with damage to automobiles. “Large numbers of love bugs can reduce visibility, etch automobile paint and cause liquid-cooled engines to overheat,” states the UF web site. They’re apparently attracted to diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes and the heat from pavement. They tend to swarm over highways. Regularly waxing a car can make it easier to remove their bodies, but their fluids can etch car paint, so it is important to remove the bugs as soon as possible — within about 20 minutes, UF advises.

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