ORLANDO, Fla. – If you’ve washed your car lately or taken a stroll around the neighborhood, you may have noticed the return of Florida’s pesky visitor.
Lovebugs — also referred to as honeymoon flies or two-headed bugs — are all abuzz after taking a brief break last year. News 6 meteorologist Jonathan Kegges explained how the lovebug larvae -- which lives in decaying vegetation at the soil surface -- very much needs the perfect weather story to really thrive. If the habitat is too wet, they drown. If the environment is too dry, the larvae dries up.
2022 is a different romance novel thanks to more rain in the first part of the year. Orlando has received more than 12.5 inches of rain since January which is about three inches above normal.
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Rumors have swirled for decades that the non-native species of insect escaped a lab at the University of Florida, but their journey to the sunshine state is far less dramatic. Experts believe they migrated to the Gulf Coast states from Central America in the 1940s.
Dr. Norman Leppla, a professor at the University of Florida who specializes in integrated pest management and biological control, said in the 70s, they were “unbelievably abundant.”
“When lovebugs first arrived from the Yucatan, you had to pull off the road every 30 minutes or sooner. They were so abundant they would cover the windshield and that is when we got on the turnpike these windshield wash stations. People literally lined up with their vehicles, trucks included, and they had to go through and clean their windshield or they couldn’t see,” he said.
During mating season, the male lovebug attaches to the female and stays connected during flight. Their mating process could take up to 12 hours, followed by the female dying less than four days after laying between 100 and 350 eggs.
According to Leppla, mating peaks last roughly four weeks in May and September. Experts believe the flies are most active between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in temperatures above 84 degrees.
“They are survivalists, which determines where they pop up when mating. If it’s too wet, they drown, if its too dry they do have a mechanism for forming a case and withstand a drought, but they can only withstand it so long. So the environment needs to be just right,” Leppla said.
Leppla gave News 6 a few tips to keep the pesky insects away. Here’s what you should know:
- Lovebugs are attracted to light colors, so you can avoid wearing light-colored clothing and being near light-colored walls to not draw them in
- They are also bad flyers, so you can use a fan to blow them away
- Lastly, lovebugs don’t fly at night and take a break around noon, so if you limit outdoor exposure during the morning and afternoon times you may be able to avoid them
Besides for each other, lovebugs are also very attracted to highways. With the combination of heat and car exhausts, highways can become a hot spot for the pesky flies which is often proven by the residue left behind on your front car bumper and windshield after a long drive.
Although lovebugs don’t bite or sting, they can be quite destructive to your car. After driving through a swarm of them, their acidic remains can damage car paint and even clog car radiators if left there long enough.
The best way to protect your car during these seasons of love is by keeping a healthy coat of wax on your car. The wax will serve as a protective barrier between your paint and the acidic lovebug remains. A good soaking with soap and water for about five minutes every few days will also help.
Long story short — prepare the swatters as this romance rendezvous kicks into full swing for the next few weeks.