Not really loving those Lovebugs?

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Few insects bring as much contempt as the lovebug. This flying insect is best known for splattering across your windshield and causing damage to the paint on your vehicle.

Interestingly enough, this is an insect that does not bite, does not sting, it doesn’t carry disease, won’t harm livestock, and doesn’t damage crops.

And still, there’s just nothing to love about a lovebug.

By all recorded accounts, lovebugs (Plecia nearctica) were established in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. They are reported to naturally have migrated from Central America into Texas in the early 1900’s staying (originally) close to the gulf shore.

The lovebug was first described in 1940 by a young, 26 year old entomologist by the name of D. Elmo Hardy in Galveston, Texas. At the time, he reported the incidence of lovebugs to be widespread, but most common in Texas and Louisiana.

Born in Utah in 1914, Hardy researched insects for over 70 years and passed away on October 17, 2002 in Honolulu, Hawaii. During his lifetime, with just over seven decades of research, Hardy published 437 articles and notes in which he named and described nearly 2,000 species of flies in the Diptera order.

There is a common myth that lovebugs are from Florida. There is an even more insidious myth that lovebugs were either imported or “developed” in a lab by Florida scientists to get rid of mosquitoes. While preposterous and completely false, the myth still persists. They arrived in Florida peninsula (the last gulf state they occupied) in the 1950’s.

They continued their movement north along the Atlantic shore and were discovered in South Carolina in 1975. In 2006, it was reported as far north as Topsail Beach, north of Wilmington, North Carolina.

I was surprised to learn that lovebugs live all year long. It is only in the insect’s adult stage that we notice its flight in May and August.

Now we all know that an insect goes thru three stages: egg then larvae then adult. We remember well that a butterfly was once a caterpillar, right?

It follows then, that the lovebug is the adult form that we notice twice a year in May and Aug. The adult female lovebug can lay from 100-500 eggs after mating. These eggs hatch and the larvae then feed on decomposing matter in the “off” months where we don’t see them.

Lovebug larvae can be found in your lawn’s thatch and under cow manure, among many other sites. From a truly environmentalist point of view, they are described by some folks as beneficial insects because they help break down organic matter!

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 environmental factors that are still not completely understood.

Officially, lovebugs are considered a nuisance pest. While you and I are certainly tired of dealing with them, their lack of “impact” on food production and human health put them quite low on the list of problematic pests that researchers are working on. To be blunt, unless lovebugs start spreading disease, damage livestock or food crops, there is little chance that we’ll have any breakthroughs in their control or abatement.

Their main damage is to your car or truck. Smeared guts across your windshield can make driving hazardous. An incredibly excessive number in your vehicle’s radiator may cause it to overheat. But the primary problem we fuss and fume over is the condition to the paint and other surfaces that the innards of the lovebug stick adhere.

Some home remedies for their damage to vehicles are as follows:

· Dryer sheets: Grab one from the laundry room and rub.

· WD-40: Some swear by greasy items like motor oil and WD-40. Post car wash, apply to your bumper with a cloth.

· Baby Oil: wipe it on your bumper, grill and hood. It will make the pesky critters easier to peel off.

· Spraying your car with Pam.

· Try Bug Goo.

· Coca-Cola: Some folks call this their last resort. They figure the cola acids will melt away the guts on the bumper.

· A good coat of wax helps prevent the bugs from sticking too bad.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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