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The Unlovable Lovebug

It happens twice a year, each May and September. You step outside and notice a few black bugs floating errantly on the breeze. It’s a sign—or perhaps an omen, signaling the onset of another lovebug swarm. Soon they’re everywhere—loitering outside your doorstep, harassing you at gas stations, and littering the roadways like a flurry of live snowflakes waiting to decorate your windshield like a Jackson Pollock canvas. Though they don’t sting or bite, the sheer number in which they swarm can make the lovebug an extreme public nuisance and eye sore. Despite the urban legend that these insects were created in a lab at the University of Florida and accidentally released upon the public, this is wholly untrue.

The less remarkable truth is that Mother Nature is far more capricious than any mad scientist, and these bugs (well, flies technically--in case any entomology hobbyists are reading) have been making their way towards Florida since the 1940’s, where they were able to flourish in the absence of any significant predators. But lack of predation isn’t the only factor contributing to their extraordinary numbers. The other is their unique mating habit; to wit, they mate almost non-stop, even as they fly (hence the romantic nickname).  During these nuptial flights, the females are attracted to heat as well as aldehydes, a major component of car exhaust. This is why it’s common to find so many along roadsides and, of course, all over your car. More than just a nuisance, if left to dry for an extended period, they may even damage the paint. In fact, in some cases this automotive assault has been known to clog radiator fins to the point of overheating vehicles!

As if their seasonal imposition wasn’t bad enough, they’re also nearly impossible to control. Though insecticides will kill lovebugs when they’re sprayed directly, more will continue to float in right behind them. The good news is that in the past 30 years, we’ve seen a continuing decrease in the severity of swarms here in Florida. There has been speculation among entomologists that this could be due to certain fungal pathogens controlling lovebug larvae populations. However, since it is unlikely that we’ll ever be completely lovebug-free, we’ve provided a few helpful tips to help you get through the next visit from these amorous aerialists. 

Weathering The Swarm

  • Try to avoid driving long distances during peak lovebug swarming hours (10-11 am and 6-8 pm).
  • Install an automotive grill cover for each 3-4-week swarm season.
  • Remove dead lovebugs as quickly as possible to avoid paint damage.
  • Keep doors and windows closed, especially during peak swarming hours.
  • Avoid chemicals for the occasional lovebug you may find inside. Instead, a vacuum will provide quick and safe removal.