Every spring and autumn, southerners begin looking to the skies with dread. But it’s not some large bird they’re watching for, it’s the lovebug.
These little bugs are black with a red thorax and an insatiable sexual appetite that causes entire swarms to hover along highways and invade homes. They squish easily, and their bodies are acidic enough that it can damage paint. In fact, the swarms can become so bad that cars have to pull over and wait for the bugs to pass by.
But just what are these little bugs and what can you do about them?
Getting to Know Lovebugs
Lovebugs have worked hard to earn their name. These march flies have earned a sordid array of nicknames for their mating habits, including the double-headed bug and honeymoon fly. Officially, they’re Plecia nearctica.
These annoyingly affectionate critters can be found all along the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida. However, they’ve been spotted as far north as South Carolina. Swarms can number literally in the millions, making them a frustrating pest problem.
What Are Lovebugs Attracted To?
These critters find a lot of things interesting: bright colors, exhaust fumes from cars or lawnmowers, wet paint, and any other source of carbon or methane fumes.
They associate these gasses with rotting matter, which is the perfect place for laying eggs. The larvae feed off of this matter, which makes them somewhat beneficial. Adult lovebugs are attracted to flowers and have a diet of mostly nectar.
The Notorious Public Displays of Affection
For whatever reason, lovebugs have never heard of getting a room. Instead, the males will wait for the females to emerge from their pupae and immediately mate with them.
Mating flies will dock back-to-back and can even hover in place while mating. The male dies immediately after the 2-3 day mating period, and the female dies after laying her fertilized eggs.
Do Lovebugs Die if Pulled Apart?
Lovebugs take their mating ritual very seriously, so much so that their genitals become locked together. Pulling them apart actually tears the genitals off, killing them.
If these bugs weren’t considered such a nuisance, their brief, literally inseparable adult lives might almost be considered romantic.
Getting Rid of Lovebugs
Mother Nature has gone to great lengths to provide some natural population control through parasitic fungi and natural predators, but this isn’t enough to prevent swarms from appearing twice per year.
As a result, you may find you have to take matters into your own hands.
In the Home
Like other flying insects including hoverflies, lovebugs don’t like too much airflow, so having a ceiling fan turned to high or oscillating fans will often discourage them from wanting to stick around. Unlike flies, they actually know how to use an open window once they know they’re not welcome.
In the Yard
Tall grass and fallen leaves are primary draws for lovebugs, who use these conditions to shelter and feed their offspring. Be sure to keep the lawn mowed and remove any leaves or other debris.
Also, don’t run your lawn mower more than you need to, as the fumes will only attract more lovebugs.
How to Remove Lovebugs From Your Car
Treating your car to a good waxing before bug season begins will help keep the lovebugs from being able to hold on when the car moves. It can also make cleaning any splatters easier.
Said splatters can usually be cleaned by spraying water on the splatters and wiping them away with a dryer sheet.
Owning an electric car or one with low emissions with a darker or muted paint job is especially useful, as the bugs are less likely to chase your car in the first place.
How to Kill Lovebugs
While essentially harmless, these critters can become quite annoying and even cause minor damage, so sometimes it’s better to do a little extermination to keep the population down.
Indoors, the easiest method is to simply vacuum up any that are hanging around the house and dispose of the bag afterwards.
Outdoors, you can attract robins or quail, both of which feed on lovebugs. You may also see an infestation of spiders appear in your yard as well, since they love to snack on these acidic pests.
How to Keep Lovebugs Away
There are a few ways to repel lovebugs that have proven effective.
While having darker colors can help, you’re probably not going to want to paint your house, your car, and change your wardrobe just to deter a seasonal nuisance. Instead, try making your own lovebug repellent.
Personal Repellent Lotion
A few essential oils not only smell great, they can keep lovebugs (and sweat bees) away. The exact ratio is up to you, but generally a good lotion will include 3% each of peppermint and citronella, as well as 4% turmeric.
The other 90% can be lotion, water, baby oil, or whatever else you prefer.
Simple Repellent Spray
One of the easiest repellents uses only three ingredients. Simply mix 3 tablespoons each of mouthwash and citrus-scented dish liquid with a cup of water. Spray this on surfaces where the lovebugs like to gather, such the porch, patio, and along walls.