By Ali Holton
April showers bring May flowers, but what does May bring to Florida? Lovebugs.
For those of us who live in the state, we are cautiously prepared to expect the presence of these creatures at least twice a year. Lovebugs historically swarm through the seasons and create a general nuisance for motorists and vacationers during the first weeks of May and September. We often wonder where they come from and what they are doing here.
Lovebugs are an interesting type of Marchfly. Easily identified by their slender, black bodies and bright red thorax, lovebugs are slow-flying insects closely related to midges and mosquitoes.
It was originally thought that lovebugs were invasive, but that’s not the case. In local areas, it’s also common to hear the urban legend that lovebugs were created in a lab at a central Florida university, from where they later escaped to plague our spring months and of autumn. Variations of this myth have been widely shared, but it does not stem from the truth. Lovebugs are a native species found naturally along the Gulf of Mexico, residing in states such as Texas, North Carolina, and Florida and can also be found as far south as Costa Rica.
Lovebugs live in this state year round and swarm twice a year when they inevitably seem to be everywhere. Before their swarming/mating seasons, lovebugs go through their life cycle on the ground under debris and decaying vegetation. Adult stink bugs feed primarily on plant matter and nectar.
During their seasonal population outbreaks, lovebugs most often fly in pairs. These are mating pairs. Male lovebugs can swarm in the dozens looking for a mate to grab, and once they do, they fly in unison. Lovebugs are typically encountered from dawn to dusk flying in large groups. An interesting fact about these insects is that adults in the wild only live three to five days in total.
Adult love bugs are harmless to us as they do not bite, sting, attack or spread disease. They can be a nuisance and particularly wreak havoc on the front ends of our vehicles. A good tip during lovebug season is to keep your car waxed and have some dryer sheets handy to wipe residue from your vehicle.
Ali Holton is currently the Director of FishHawk TNR Inc. She has a Masters degree in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystems and 20 years of experience specializing in animal behavior and conservation. To reach her, email [email protected]