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Saturday, Jul 12, 2014
Lifestyle Stories

Lovebugs debunked: Myths and tips to survive the season


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Decades ago, with the mosquito population out of control, the University of Florida’s mad scientists decided to fight back.

That’s how the red and black lovebugs were created — or at least that’s how an urban legend says it happened.

Philip Koehler, an endowed professor in UF’s entomology department, wasn’t sure how the myth started but said it’s impossible.

“If we’d created them, they would be orange and blue,” he said.

Other lovebug myths:

Myth 1: Lovebugs eat mosquitoes. This isn’t true. Lovebugs eat decaying grass and other plants.

Myth 2: Cooking spray will help keep the bugs from sticking to car bumpers. Technically this is true, but the cooking spray will do more damage to your paint job than any of the insects can, so leave the cooking spray in the kitchen.

The pesky bugs first showed up in the U.S. sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, Koehler said.

They thrive in tropical environments and likely came over on a ship from Central America, first invading Texas then marching into Florida.

Since then, the lovebugs have plagued Floridians every fall and spring. Right now, Central Florida is in the throes of its second visit of the year.

There’s no reason to fear the tiny flies. They don’t sting or bite, but because they’re so prolific insecticides don’t keep them at bay for long.

“The best way to kill a lovebug is to hit it with your car,” said Koehler, describing the familiar sight of bug-encrusted bumpers and windshields. Then find a carwash. If you want to save your paint job, you’ll need one. The acidic splatters that lovebugs leave behind can ruin the paint.

If you don’t mind altering your schedule for a short time — lovebugs usually only stick around for about three weeks — try to leave home earlier and return later. Lovebugs are most active when temperatures spike from mid-morning to early evening.

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