Scientists look beneath surface for answers to mysterious lovebug decline

Invasive species settled in Central Florida in 1940s

By Clay LePard - Reporter, Kelly Pepperman - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - Lovebug mating season is upon us, which means more smooshed lovebugs leaving a mess on our cars.

This year, you may have noticed less bugs than usual. Experts told News 6 that's because of a population decrease.

The non-native species of insect was not created by a scientist in a laboratory at the University of Florida, as you may have heard through local legend.

Lovebugs actually migrated to the Gulf Coast states from Central America in the 1940s. ‚Äč

Logan Parkinson, the assistant manager at Road Runners Express Car Wash in Orlovista, said lovebugs can cause a lot of damage.

"If they are on there for more than a day, they can eat away at your paint," he explained. "We do around 550 or 600 cars a day during lovebug season." 

Dr. Denise DeBusk, an expert on bugs at Valencia College, discussed the possible decrease in the lovebug population spanning the last several years.

"There is kind of a mystery," the horticulture and entomology professor said. "We're not really positive why the population is decreasing." 

DeBusk believes the destructive insect that migrated from Mexico may have finally settled into the area.

"When something's not native, and there are no natural enemies, they can reach explosive numbers," she explained. "And that's what has happened in the past. Over time, they can actually stabilize."

DeBusk pointed out what is happening beneath the ground and within the soil, where lovebug larvae live most of the year, saying it could possibly be to blame for the species decline.

"Likely there is some competition going on, there may be some natural enemies, some fungi to decrease the population," DeBusk said.

This round of the lovebug season is expected to last through the end of May.

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