There’s a joke that floats around the internet every now and again that says, “Florida has four seasons just like everywhere else: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season, and summer.”
Lovebug season is up, and only Floridians can relate to the unique frustrations caused by these strange little beasts, who inspire everything but love in us. Let’s understand a little bit about these critters.
First up, time for some myth busting: lovebugs are not the result of genetic experimentation at the University of Florida. This myth perpetuates itself each year but Norman Leppla, an entomologist at the University of Florida, has spent years debunking it for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). Rather, this invasive species came over from Central America sometime after World War II.
Per Mr. Leppla, “Other common names for this insect include March flies, double-headed bugs, honeymoon flies, united bugs, and some expletives that are not repeatable.”
They swarm twice a year, typically in May and September, for a few weeks. While adults live 3-4 days, female lovebugs can lay as many as 350 eggs in their lifetime. Popular swarming times are 8-10 AM and 4-6 PM…smack in the middle of rush hour. (General activity goes all day.)
According to UF, “Lovebugs are attracted to decomposing plant debris, but may confuse these odors with chemicals in exhaust fumes. Heat also attracts lovebugs. Both of these factors can lead them to congregate around highways.”
As bad as it seems today, lovebug season was actually worse a few decades ago. According to the Tampa Bay Times, in the 1970s, it was not uncommon to see cars pull off the interstate every 10 miles just to wipe the paste of guts off the windshield before continuing.
While certainly a nuisance, love bugs aren’t dangerous to humans. They can’t bite or sting, and don’t transmit disease.
How Can Lovebugs Damage Your Car?
The pH of a lovebug’s body (and the eggs) splattered all over your vehicle is slightly acidic which, when baked in the heat of the sun for hours, can cause your vehicle paint to erode. If left uncleaned for several days, “bacterial action increases the acidity and etches the paint,” says IFAS.
Additionally, large number of lovebugs can cause overheating of liquid-cooled engines by clogging radiators in addition to reducing visibility on windshields and windows.
How to Remove Lovebugs
UF’s IFAS says it’s as simple as water and soap: “IFAS recommends soaking the surface with water for about five minutes, then scrubbing within 15 to 20 minutes to remove most of the lovebugs without harm to automobile paint.” (Source)
One hack often shared on social media is using a damp dryer sheet to wipe them away, but Norman Leppla cautions that this just turns them into mush.
Perhaps the most straightforward approach is to keep a spray bottle of water and car cleaner mixture in the car, along with a microfiber cloth, and wipe down when you arrive to work and again to home in the evening. A hassle? Yes—but fortunately, it’s only a few weeks a year.
How to Prevent Lovebugs
As I always say, the best offense is a good defense. Wax your car before lovebug season begins, and the inevitable cleanup will be much easier. If you want to take it to the next level, the Farmer’s Almanac even suggests rubbing a little baby oil or cooking spray on your car’s hood and bumper.
You may instead elect to purchase a fabric “lovebug protector” screen for the front of your vehicle, though these accessories only protect the (limited) area they cover.
If you’re fighting love bugs that have taken up residence on your property, make sure to keep your grass mowed and bag the trimmings. Lovebugs lay their eggs in grass thatch, and decaying cut grass is the perfect environment for raising the next generation of flying jerks.
If you’re encountering lovebugs while you run, remember that lovebugs are attracted to white and other light colors. Consider changing your attire to be less attractive to them. You may also choose to run at night instead, since lovebugs don’t fly at night.
If these pests are intruding on your evening cocktail hour on the patio, bring a fan outdoors with you. They are relatively weak fliers and will avoid windy areas.
One thing we at Universal Pest Control would encourage you to avoid is pesticides.
Mr. Leppla says, “Insecticides available to the public for controlling houseflies, mosquitoes, and other flies will also kill lovebug adults. However, there are risks associated with using these products, and the lovebugs will return almost immediately. Other insects are often misidentified as being lovebugs, some of which are innocuous or beneficial, and therefore, should not be killed. It is important to preserve lady beetles, lacewings, honeybees, and other insects that help to protect or pollinate plants. Thus, insecticides are expensive, potentially harmful, and of no value in controlling lovebugs.“
Wishing you a safe and splat-free lovebug season!
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control