Love in the air: Everything you need to know about lovebugs

Ubiquitous pests came to Florida from Yucatan

ORLANDO, Fla. – If you have lived in Florida long enough, you have likely seen them flying around or stuck to your car.

Lovebugs often fly in tandem and can make for some uncomfortable conversations.

“It caused me to have a very awkward conversation with my daughter, who when she was very tiny, she caught the little lovebug and she goes, ‘Dad, why does this bug have two heads?’ And I stumbled around and bumbled and said, ‘We’ll talk about it when you’re older,’” Florida’s Fourth Estate co-host, Matt Austin said.

Austin and Ginger Gadsden are getting to the bottom of what lovebugs are doing, where they came from and how to clean them off of your car.

[TRENDING: 17-year-old found shot to death in Orange CountyPalm Bay councilman Pete Filiberto accused of DUI, carrying cocaine in shoe | Brevard community rallies behind family whose son played in Super Bowl | Become a News 6 Insider]

The duo spoke with Dr. Norman C. Leppla with the University of Florida on Florida’s Fourth Estate. He has dedicated his life to studying insects and he knows a lot about lovebugs.

Watch News 6+ in the player below for live news and original programming:

So, why do they appear to fly around with two heads?

“Are they just living in ecstasy all the time?” Austin said.

“Do they smoke little, tiny cigarettes?” Gadsden added.

“What they are actually doing is guarding their paternity. So, it doesn’t take very long, but then they take off flying and the male wants to make sure no other males are able to mate with that female,” Leppla said.

Austin and Gadsden were shocked asking if lovebugs are “control freaks” or “stalkers”.

“Well, in a way, stalker is not a bad analogy to what they do” Leppla said. “If you look closely, it’s mostly the males that are swarming. They come out ahead of the females and they wait and then compete — we don’t say stalk we say compete. And one of the males grabs the female and then it follows through with mating and flying away.”

You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below:

Now that we know what they are doing, Gadsden wanted to know about the big mess they leave on everybody’s car during lovebug season.

“Those are eggs,” Leppla said. “They are insect eggs. They drop 300 or more and that’s what’s getting on your car.”

It might look nasty, but Leppla said it helps if you get it off of your car as soon as possible.

He recommends putting a coat of wax on your car at the beginning of both lovebug seasons. If you leave them on longer than a day he says you should use a wet dryer sheet to get them off.

While that may be all you think you need to know about lovebugs, there’s more.

“They’re not bugs. Technically, they’re flies. They’re a distant relative of mosquitoes. And a lot of their behavior is similar to what mosquitoes do,” Leppla said. “They’re not poisonous, they don’t sting, they don’t bite.”

Leppla also dispelled a common rumor. He said lovebugs were not created at a lab at the University of Florida.

“We’re pretty darn good at microbiology, but not that good,” he said.

“(Lovebugs came here) by themselves, essentially, from Yucatan, in about 1960, perhaps a little sooner, we may have helped them by moving things like turf. Across the new highway system. Florida was beginning to develop highways at that time. And we had lots of people coming here and they wanted lots of grass and other vegetation. So here comes the lovebugs with them.”

Hear the full conversation on Florida’s Fourth Estate (link to FFE on clicko). You can download it from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch anytime on News 6+.

About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.