A black cloud is heading your way. You open your umbrella. Wait. The raindrops have wings! It’s not a storm but a swarm of lovebugs.
NOT TRUE BUGS
Lovebugs are actually small flying insects the size of a grain of rice. They have a bright reddish-orange thorax (middle body segment), a black head, and one pair of wings. Lovebugs earned their name because they fly in pairs. These insects thrive in the warm climates of South America and the US Gulf Coast.
TIS’ THE SEASON
Lovebugs appear one or two weeks in the spring and again in the fall. This is called lovebug season.
Female lovebugs lay up to three hundred eggs. These eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) after twenty days. In swamps, safely hidden under decaying vegetation, the larvae feed and grow for five to seven months.
Adult males emerge, climbing up plants and feeding on nectar. They begin to fly as temperatures warm. Over the emergence site, even on windy days, forty or more males will hover in swarms twenty feet above ground.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
When females emerge, it’s love at first sight! Males grasp females and the pairs mate. Partners continue coupling while hovering in mid-air. This gives them nicknames like honeymoon flies and kissy bugs.
Later, couples separate and the male dies. Many males permanently attach to the rear of the female’s abdomens.
Females drag the dead males around until they lay their eggs. With her eggs safely deposited, she buries herself snuggly below leaves or grass before she dies.
Lonesome lovebugs spend a day or two sailing from flower to flower sipping nectar while searching for a companion.
In only three or four days, lovebugs must feed, mate, and lay eggs.
LOVE BUGS ON THE MOVE
The open spaces of highways attract lovebugs. Thousands of mating pairs gravitate toward light-colored or shiny buildings.
If you visit Disney World in Florida during the lovebug season, you might meet a slow drifting flurry of harmless black flies.
WHY SO HARD TO LOVE?
Beekeepers complain honeybees will not visit flowers covered with lovebugs. These flies also stick to freshly painted surfaces. Smashed insects on car windshields can make it difficult to see while driving. The acidic goo inside the lovebug’s body can ruin a car’s finish and leave sticky residue on clothing.
LOVE BUGS ARE LOVING
Lovebugs help to recycle. They break down organic matter during their larval stage. Kevin Pierce of Florida Environment said, “…whatever you could do to control them would also kill beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. So, we’re much better off leaving them alone…”
Lovebugs do not bite, sting, or spread disease. They are not poisonous.
If you’re in the middle of a swarm and feel the gentle tickle of wings, you just might fall in love with lovebugs!
Scroll down for lovebug recipe!
A Bowl Full of Love (bugs)
This recipe makes a tasty bowl of ‘lovebugs’ in their many stages of life.
1—Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice pouch, Long Grain and Wild flavor
- Slice tomatoes into thin strips. Chop strips into tiny pieces. Set aside.
- Microwave rice following directions on package.
- Carefully pour hot rice into serving bowl.
- Gently stir in the chopped tomatoes.