Love Bugs

Love bug season leaves telltale splats

6:54 p.m., Thursday, May 24, 2007

Love bugs live, fly and die in pairs. That’s romantic. But the romance doesn’t appeal to those who have love bug remains splattered on their windshields that are hard to clean off even with car wash soaps.

It's the season for love bugs, small, black flies with red thoraxes that are a semiannual nuisance to motorists when they fly out in pairs looking for pastures and mowed grass for their larvae. They hit car grilles and windshields and leave hard-to-clean deposits.

They are attracted to roadways because of the higher temperature favorable for laying eggs. Emissions from automobiles also reflect ultraviolet light from the sun that attract love bugs, said Dr. Phil Koehler, professor of entomology at the University of Florida.

When hit by cars, female love bugs’ egg masses -- high in fat content -- splatter across the windshield. If not immediately cleaned off, the egg masses dry and the fatty matter becomes hard to clean, Koehler said.

Love bugs emerge once in spring from mid-May to June and once in fall from September to early October. The overall love bug population has remained steady over the years, and the population in the fall emergence is always higher.

“They don’t do any damage at all instead of getting hit by cars,” Koehler said.

Though love bugs can be annoying, they hold no threat to humans.

“They don’t bite. They’re not poisonous. They only tickle when they land on you,” said Dr. Norman Leppla, professor and program director of Integrated Pest Management at University of Florida.

Without an imminent threat, no control measures for love bugs are in place, said Jeff Stivers, director of research at the Collier County Mosquito Control District.

“They’re so widespread that any kind of control measures will be extremely expensive. They are a nuisance for a couple of weeks, and then they’re gone. It’s not feasible to have control methods,” Stivers said.

Koehler said the most important thing to do to combat effects of the widespread love bugs are to wash them off vehicles immediately.

“Go less than 5 miles per hour so they won’t splatter over the cars. For motorcyclists, keep your mouth closed,” he said, jokingly.

Leppla provides the following precautions and remedies:

• Wax the car to prevent love bugs from sticking to your car.

• Drive at night. Love bugs don’t fly at night.

• Use window screen to keep love bugs away from your house.

• Clean love bugs with car wash soap and wipe them off with insect pads.

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