TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Attention Florida drivers! Lovebug season is upon us, and before you know it, you’ll probably have to wash them off your car.
The pesky flies are most noticeable when they come out attached as pairs to mate in the spring and the fall.
Lovebugs won’t hurt you, but they may damage your car or truck.
So what exactly are lovebugs? Why are they stuck together? And how can you clean them off your car? Here’s what you should know.
What are lovebugs?
According to researchers at the University of Florida, lovebugs, also known as Plecia nearctica, are small black flies with a vibrant red thorax, typically 6 to 9 millimeters in length.
Lovebugs are around all year. In their immature stage, they can be found in the soil, under partially decayed vegetable matter. Most people notice them in their adult stage, when they come out to mate, attached together in pairs. Two generations of adults will emerge from the soil each year in the spring (May) and in fall (September).
Where are lovebugs found?
They are most prevalent in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the southeastern U.S.
A major lovebug myth is that they were created by entomologists at the University of Florida to help kill mosquitos. However, the species was first identified in southeastern Texas in 1940, and migrated naturally along the Gulf of Mexico, spreading through the southeastern U.S. (Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana), the UF report said. The first lovebug in Florida was identified in 1949 in Escambia County.
How long do they stay attached to each other?
The male and female lovebugs attach themselves at the rear of the abdomen and stay stuck together during the most of the mating process, even in flight.
Adult males live for about 92 hours, and females live up to 72 hours, long enough to mate and lay a batch of eggs. After the male dies, it will be dragged around by the female until she lays her eggs. The females will typically lay between 150 and 600 eggs.
Mating season tends to last about four weeks.
During that time, you might see some lovebug residue on your hoods and windshields. The bugs are attracted to decomposing plants, highways, and exhaust fumes from cars, lawnmowers and other engines and heat, the UF report said.
How do I clean them off my car?
Lovebug build-up can obstruct visibility for drivers, and their slightly-acidic residue can ruin the paint on your car. Lovebugs can also clog your radiator, causing your engine to overheat.
The best thing to do if you find them on your vehicle is to soak the affected area with water for five minutes and scrub for 15 to 20 minutes. That should remove most of the lovebugs without ruining your vehicle’s paint job, the UF report says.