An Experiment Gone Wrong: The Story of Love Bugs
I’m sure everyone has heard the story of the love bug; they were an experiment gone horribly wrong and was unleashed unto the population by non-other than the University of Florida (UF). Now they swarm and stick to your vehicle potentially tearing away paint, or walking into a hoard while shopping. Although the abundance of these pesky insects is true the myth of UF creating the pest is not, and no one knows how it started or how it became such a popular piece of information. Maybe someone was just looking for someone else to blame, or maybe it was just a joke. In either case it became a well-known origin story and continues to be one today. Below is a compilation of some interesting information for those who want a little more in depth detail on these little pests.
Let Us Start with the Basics
So, what are love bugs? Well, they are a type of fly similar to knats that you see flying around fruit. They have a small slender black body and a red or dark orange head. These insects originate from Central America and have been reported around the states since the early 1900’s. They have since migrated from Texas through Louisiana and over to us in Florida.
Love bugs are attracted to decaying material. This is their main source of food and actively seek out sources with high CO2 which also helps to explain why they are attracted to our vehicles. Researchers have found that along with car fumes love bugs may also be attracted to vibrations and heat that our vehicles produce. I think it is safe to speculate that because of Florida’s large population, of people and vehicle, Love Bugs may never want to leave.
They do Have a Purpose
The fact that love bugs play an important role in our environment may surprise you. Most people think love bugs are just a nuisance and that may be true….at least…when they are in the adult stage. When these insects are in their larval stage they eat decaying material and help redistribute nutrient throughout the environment. Interesting right? Who knew such as pesky insect could actually do some good without anyone knowing.
Some Interesting Facts
The female Love Bug dies 86 hours after laying eggs
Love Bugs really do take off paint from your vehicle
They are active in roughly 84⁰F weather
Successful mating takes around 12 hours
Mating season is from May to September
Females can lay up to 350 eggs
Foraging birds are a top predator to them
Also called March Flies
They are harmless to humans and animals
So….is there anything I can do to get rid of them?
Unfortunately, there is little you or anyone can do get rid of them. Chemical pesticides have little effect to the overall population, but in recent years they have been declining. It is speculated that foraging birds have been able to reduce the population by eating eggs that hide under decaying forest and grass debris.
There are, however, a few things you can do to reduce the chances of damage to your vehicle. One way is to wax your car right before their mating season. The wax creates a barrier, so they are unable to reach your paint when they splatter. Washing or rinsing off your car no more than 3 hours after they hit your vehicle can also prevent paint from chipping away. This may be a hassle, but your car will thank you.
If you would like more information follow this link to the University of South Florida’s love bugs web page------àhttp://ipm.ifas.ufl.edu/community/Lovebugs.shtml