In Florida, one doesn’t have to worry about the Love Bug biting, because the small black flies of the species Plecia nearctica don’t bite at all; but they can cause your car to overheat and can be a real pain in the grass.
Let us explain.
Twice each year – in spring (April to May) and late summer (August to September) -Florida’s famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) Love Bugs go on a mating frenzy; and they mate while they are airborne. While we can hardly begrudge frolicking insects the simple joy of romance (the adults don’t even eat, so what else do they have left?), it does present a problem to Florida’s motorists when they swarm in the millions.
Since their larvae eat decaying vegetation, the adults tend to head for the sides of roadways and highways to lay eggs, where mowed vegetation lies in the Florida sun, decaying. There have been reports of accidents that occurred after large numbers of the amorous insects ended up as squashed lovers on passing motorists windshields, completely obscuring their view of the road. There have also been anecdotes of the swarming insects clogging car radiators, causing vehicles to overheat.
So pervasive and nuisance inducing are these bugs during mating season that wild rumors and conspiracy theories have grown up around them in an attempt to explain the seasonal plague.
A rumor was floated that Love Bugs were actually man-made, part of a biological experiment at the University of Florida gone bad. According to lore, the bugs had been genetically engineered to create an enemy for mosquito larvae. As with all good conspiracy stories, a male and a female managed to escape. With no natural enemies, the population exploded.
The myth debunking website, Snopes.com has a far more logical – and boring – explanation. It states that the flies are native to Central America and that they were probably stowaways who came by ship to the United States around 1920. The unwanted visitors simply liked what they saw and decided to stay.
One thing that is known for sure is that if your car has been splattered with these dearly departed Love Bugs it is advisable that you wash them off as soon as possible. The bodies are very acidic and will pit the finish on your car if you leave them on your vehicle for any length of time.
So, next time you see a large black swarm headed your way in Florida in spring and late summer, you know that, for the most part, it is probably a group of harmless flies on a honeymoon.
If the swarm isn’t comprised of flies, Farah & Farah suggests that running the other way might be a good option.