Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
If you are visiting Florida in either late April/May or August/September you may well see some of these amorous creatures. They are not really bugs, but are actually flies (Plecia nearctica) of the family Bibionidae. Lovebugs are known by many names, such as kissybug, honeymoon fly, telephone bug and double-headed bug. They are a small flying insect commonly found in Texas and Louisiana, but can now be widely seen in all areas which border the Gulf of Mexico. They originated in South America and have spread. Amazingly they can fly to altitudes of up to 450 metres.
These little black bugs are very easy to see, as they have a bright orange thorax, and can usually be seen flying around in mating pairs. Unfortunately for the male, who is considerably smaller than the female, after mating he dies. The male’s eyes are four times the size of the females, enabling them to spot available females. However, even the female only lives for about 2-3 days, having laid anything from 100 to 350 eggs beneath decaying vegetation. When the larvae hatch out they feed on this decaying plant life, and can live for 5-7 months. They actually perform a very useful function, converting this plant material into organic material which improves the soil. The larvae become pupae which, after about 7-10 days, become the black adult lovebugs. The larvae actually eat many pests, such as beetle larvae and earwigs, and are eaten by birds such as robins, as well as by spiders. Lovebugs, however, have few predators, apart from cars, as they, apparently, taste unpleasant.
Unfortunately lovebugs have got themselves a bad name, mainly because, from time to time, they swarm, and can be a bit of a nuisance. However, they do not deserve all the bad press they receive as they are, in fact, completely harmless. Whilst causing a lot of mess and inconvenience, they neither sting nor bite, so will not harm you. I am glad to tell you that they are otherwise occupied, and are not the least bit interested in humans!
In fact the main problem caused by these little creatures is the mess they make, when they make contact with a car driving at speed. Apparently they are attracted to hot radiators. Unfortunately for them they do not survive this impact, and end up splattered on the windscreens and grilles of cars. Indeed, it has been known for a car radiator grille to become so covered in them that they cause the car to become overheated. Because they are somewhat acidic, they can cause damage to the paintwork of cars, pitting the surface if left for days.
However, they are a short lived nuisance, and nothing to be afraid of. It is a good idea to wash them off cars as soon as possible, but other than sweeping them up when they die, there really is little more you can do about them. Removing these lovebugs from car headlights is a good idea, as a thick film of them will, undoubtedly reduce their effectiveness in the dark. A little trick to help remove the dried on bugs is to wet the area to be cleaned, and then rub the area with a dryer sheet (the little sheets you put in your tumble drier to make the clothes soft and sweet smelling). After that, the area should be rinsed with water.
Lovebugs only fly during the day, so journeys at dusk will be free of the nuisance, and they require temperatures of 68 degrees F before they become active.
Many urban myths exist about lovebugs, including a story that they were the result of a genetic experiment at the University of Florida going wrong. Amusingly, it has even been suggested, that United Airlines should adopt them as a means of advertising – ‘Fly United’ certainly takes on a whole new perspective! Strangely, they appear to be attracted to the colour white, so when choosing your hire car it might be wise to avoid a white one!
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