The Gulf Coast of the United States and the eastern coast of Central America are known for their beautiful beaches, seafood, and tourists. Twice a year they are also the home for black flying nuisances known as lovebugs, honeymoon flies, or double-headed bugs. The name “double-headed bug” came about because the mating pair remain joined together for days while flying slowly around, only separating after the eggs are fully fertilized. Adult lovebugs only live about 5 days. Lovebugs go through a complete metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, and imago). The female will find decaying material on soil and lay her fertilized eggs (numbering from 100 up to 350) and soon, after fulfilling her purpose in life, dies. The eggs hatch within 2 to 4 days. For most of a year, the larvae live in the covering of grasses and feed on the decaying plants and other organic material there. Not all larvae reach adulthood; many serve as food for some birds and insects. After 120 to 240 days (much depends on the weather), the larvae enter the pupa stage, becoming adults after 7 to 9 days. Males enter the imago stage first and wait for the females to emerge.
Although they are a pest, the lovebug is harmless to humans; they don’t bite or spread disease. Nectar from various plants serve as their food. They appear in April and May and then again in August and September. Although they are only around for a short time, during this period they number in the millions. During their adult lifetime, they can wreak havoc on vehicles. Windshield visibility can become impaired when a large number of lovebugs collect in the driver’s line of vision, perhaps causing an accident. Because they are slightly acidic, they can cause expensive damage to the paint and even the chrome on vehicles. These black flying bugs can cause the air passages on vehicle radiator grills to become clogged and the vehicle will overheat. Many people in the gulf states put a car bra over the radiator grill to prevent this from happening. If a dead lovebug remains even an hour on the body of a vehicle, it will be difficult to remove. Lovebugs are attracted to white and other light-colored vehicles, but even dark colored vehicles are not immune to their destruction.
Lovebugs are attracted to freshly painted surfaces. People who live along the Gulf Coast and get the urge to paint their house, porch, outdoor furniture, or anything else outside, need to avoid painting during lovebug season. Combine fresh paint and a light-color and the lovebugs will come in swarms. It’s been told that a family thought their neighbor had painted their fence posts black. When lovebug season ended, they discovered the fence was a light tan!
Lovebugs migrated from Central America through Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, to Florida. They are now found on a small scale in Georgia and South Carolina. Which state will they pester next?