By Ali Holton
April showers bring May flowers, but what does May in Florida bring? Lovebugs.
For those of us who live in the state, we are cautiously prepared to expect the presence of these critters at least twice a year. Lovebugs historically swarm in seasons and create a general nuisance to motorists and vacationers alike for the first few weeks of May and September. It is often wondered where they came from and what they are doing here.
Lovebugs are interestingly a type of March fly. Easily identified by their thin, black body and bright red thorax, lovebugs are slow-flying insects who are closely related to gnats and mosquitos.
It was originally thought that lovebugs were invasive, but that is not the case. In local regions, it is also common to hear the urban legend that lovebugs were created in a lab at a university in Central Florida, from which they later escaped to plague our spring and fall months. Variations of this myth have been shared far and wide, but it does not originate from truth. Lovebugs are a native species occurring naturally along the Gulf of Mexico, residing in states such as Texas, North Carolina and Florida and can also be found as far south as Costa Rica.
Lovebugs live in this state year-round and swarm twice a year when they inevitably seem to be everywhere. Prior to their swarming/mating seasons, lovebugs are going through their life cycle on the ground under debris and decaying vegetation. Adult lovebugs feed primarily on plant matter and nectar.
During their seasonal population outbreaks, the lovebugs are most commonly experienced flying in pairs. These are mating duos. Male lovebugs can swarm by the dozens in search of a mate to grasp ahold of, and once they do, they fly in unison. Lovebugs are typically encountered from dawn to dusk flying in large groups. An interesting fact about these insects are that the adults in the wild only live for a total of three to five days.
Adult lovebugs are harmless to us as they do not bite, sting, attack or spread disease. They can be a nuisance and most notably wreak havoc on the front ends of our vehicles. A good tip during lovebug season is to keep your car waxed and to have dryer sheets handy to wipe the residue off your vehicle.
Ali Holton is currently the director of FishHawk TNR Inc. She has a master’s in biodiversity, wildlife and ecosystems and 20 years of experience specializing in animal behavior and conservation. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.