Love is in the air, and on your car grill: What does lovebug season mean in Florida?
If you've lived here more than a year, you know. Every May and September — and sometimes December in South Florida — the state gets swarmed by millions of little black and red flying bugs, paired off and filling the skies as they reproduce. It's lovebug season.
Here's what you need to know about this affectionate floating annoyance.
How do I clean lovebugs off my car or truck?
The biggest complaint about lovebugs, and the reason this answer comes first, is that during the mating season clouds of them are everywhere and the front of your vehicle getting caked with a black, tarry mass of the dead bugs you drove through will become a daily occurence. How do you get them off, anyway?
The most thorough way to clean 'em off, frankly, is to pay someone to do it.
"Wash your car within 24 hours or the acid from them will start to burn your paint and plastics," said Patti Fowle of Naples Car Wash. "They can clog your radiator and cause your engine to overheat. The smell of them cycles through your car. We use special chemicals with high-pressure water to get them off safely. If really bad, we will use brushes as a last resort."
It's important to wash them off quickly and not let them build up. Keep water and cleaning materials in your car for frequent touchups. It helps to keep your car clean and waxed to make it tougher for the bugs will stick, and consider a hood air deflector or screen to make them easier to deal with.
Using dryer sheets is often recommended, along with a host of other remedies such as baby shampoo, hydrogen peroxide, soft drinks, Pledge and more. Experiment with caution. But be aware that some solutions abrasive enough to scrape off lovebugs also may damage your vehicle's finish.
What are lovebugs? Where do lovebugs come from?
Lovebugs are an invasive species of march fly found in Central America and the southeastern United States, including, very much so, Florida. They're always around, but in late April and May and again in late August and September females come out in swarms for the mating season. It is also known as the honeymoon fly, kissing bug or double-headed bug.
Adult females live maybe three to four days; males live a little longer. Up to eight males compete for each female. When they mate they stay connected and then must stick to each other at all times, floating gently on the breeze, smashing into your windshield and grossing out cyclists.
Lovebugs are back:Many hate them. Experts say they're here for good
Are lovebugs dangerous?
To humans, no. They're just a messy nuisance. Lovebugs don't sting or bite, they don't transmit diseases and they're not poisonous. They feed on plant nectar, especially sweet clover, goldenrod and Brazilian pepper.
"Lovebugs have no risk to human health whatsoever," said University of Florida entomologist Norman Leppla. "They don't transmit diseases ... They couldn't bite you if they wanted to."
The white splatter they leave on the cars is their eggs, Leppla says. "They aren't acid and they aren't basic. They're fairly neutral. So what causes the problem is leaving those on the car, until the sun and the heat, and perhaps microorganisms cause them to be damaging."
Why are there so many lovebugs on the highway?
Lovebugs are attracted to irradiated exhaust fumes from cars, lawnmowers and other engines (they're similar to decomposing plant debris) and to heat.
Males swarm over places where they know females will soon emerge. The females fly into swarms of the hovering males, typically from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 5 p.m. So... rush hour, in other words. And roadside vegetation along interstates and major thoroughfares is just perfect for lovebug habitation.
Do lovebugs like white surfaces?
Lovebug adults are attracted to light-colored surfaces, especially if they are freshly painted, but the adults can congregate almost anywhere by reacting to the effects of sunlight on automobile fumes, asphalt, and other products affected by environmental factors still not completely understood.
How do I repel lovebugs?
You can't, really. Pesticides don't work, they just fly higher to avoid them, and few predators eat them.
Do lovebugs eat mosquitos?
No, but they do serve an important role in our ecology. Lovebug larvae convert plant material into organic components that growing plants recycle for food, according to a University of Florida report.
Getting bugged by lovebugs:The odd role of lovebugs in these coronavirus times
But why, though:Do lovebugs have a purpose, beyond annoying us all twice a year?
What states have lovebugs?
Lovebugs emigrated into Texas and Lousiana from Central America in the 1920s, according to Leppla. "They came to Florida just after World War II, we think pretty much by themselves, across the Yucatan," Leppla says in an IFAS educational video about the bug.
By the end of the 20th century, they spread to any place bordering the Gulf of Mexico, all of Florida, and then Georgia and South Carolina.
Did the University of Florida create lovebugs?
No, UF did not create lovebugs by manipulating DNA to control the mosquito population, contrary to a persistent urban myth (rural myth?). They're just here. Everywhere.
Fact Check: Lovebugs aren't a UF experiment gone bad
Contributor: Jim Waymer, Florida Today
C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you informed about the things you care about, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news organization. Read more articles by Chris here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges