Q: Lovebugs are a problem. They aren’t adding anything good, so why are they here and how can I kill them?
Answer: Lovebugs are flies that are closely related to mosquitoes and gnats. They are easy to recognize because their bodies are slender, black and they have a red thorax (midsection). There are two species, one native and the other an invasive species documented in Louisiana in the 1920s. Twice a year we receive an infestation, from April to May and August to September.
The good news is lovebugs don’t bite or sting and they help decompose dead plant material. The bad news is they can cover your windshield and make driving visibility an issue. Lovebugs can clog radiator fans, causing cars to overheat and refrigeration equipment on trucks to malfunction. If you do not remove their fatty tissue remains on your vehicle in a few days, there will be pitting on your car finish. A freshly waxed car helps prevent pitting damage.
Peak activity for lovebugs is 10 a.m., but they don’t stop flying until dusk. They can stain clothing and are an issue around fresh paint. In laboratories, males survive for about 92 hours (less than four days) and females for up to 72 hours (three days). Females lay 100 to 350 eggs. Birds are predators, as are fungi, centipedes, earwigs and two species of beetle larvae.
Lovebugs feed on pollen and nectar in flowers, which decreases the amount available for honeybees.
For information about lovebugs, read the University of Florida publications from which this article was adapted: “Lovebugs in Florida” by J. Weston, D. E. Short and M. Pfiester at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG06800.pdf; “Living with Lovebugs” by Norman C. Leppla at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN69400.pdf; and “Lovebug Plecia nearctica Hardy (Insecta: Diptera: Bibionidae)” by H.A. Denmark, F.W. Mead and T.R. Fasulo at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in204. These articles contain additional information about lovebug myths (no, they did not escape from the University of Florida), mating, biology, behavior, management and issues regarding use of insecticides.
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.