What Are Lovebugs?
Lovebugs are actually flies (Diptera) of the family Bibionidae, having the scientific name, Plecia nearctica. The common name "lovebug" has been given to these black colored, orange-backed flies because they are most often seen flying around in mating pairs. The common name "lovebug" has been given to these black-bodied flies (with a bright orange-colored head area) because they are most often seen flying as mating pairs. Even though they are more noticeable as swarms, they commonly occur in less concentrated numbers also.
Soon after rainy periods in early spring and in fall
(especially during September and October) in wooded Upper Gulf Coast
counties of Texas, lovebugs emerge as adults and mate in swarms. Mass adult
emergence typically occurs during these two time periods but environmental
conditions that are favorable to the development of immatures (such as
prolonged period of soil saturation from high rainfall) influence swarm
The males are about 1/4 inch and the females 1/3 inch in length. Both sexes are entirely black except for red on top of their thoraxes (the middle insect body segment). Entomologists report that males weigh 6 to 10 mg and females 15 to 25 mg. The marked weight difference between sexes is largely due to the ovaries of females which contain 70 percent of the total protein in their body. Males have noticeably larger eyes which are circular. Females have an elongated rostrum (snout-like prolongation of the head).
What Beneficial Role Do They Play?
Female lovebugs lay 100-300 eggs. The immatures or larval stages of lovebugs develop in moist habitats high in organic matter (typically dead leaves and grass) such as roadside ditches, bayous and swampy areas. Immature stages are quite harmless and actually serve as one of nature’s decomposers by recycling organic matter. The adults aid in the pollination process by feeding on the nectar and pollen of flowers.
Distribution of Lovebugs
Lovebugs are native to South America. Over the past few decades, lovebugs have migrated northward to Mexico. Love bugs were first reported in the USA in Galveston, Texas, in the 1940s. Since that time, they have spread outward through states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and even along some states along the Atlantic coast including South Carolina.
What Damage Do They Do?
Adult lovebugs feed on flower nectar. They mate while in flight. Adult lovebugs do not bite or sting humans. Although their behavior and their common name may be amusing, their presence in such large numbers can be somewhat of a nuisance.
Vehicles driven through multiple swarms of lovebugs can be impacted. Radiator fins may become clogged causing cars to over-heat. Insects spattered on the windshields can obscure vision. Be sure to clean off insects that have had a head-on collision with your vehicle as soon a possible as they can also damage the paint finish if left to bake in full sun over several days. Use one of the commercially available products containing petroleum distillates advertised to facilitate the removal of crushed, dried insect parts from auto finishes.
Should Lovebugs Be Controlled?
Lovebugs do not sting or bite. Broad chemical control using insecticides has not been recommended and is generally not effective.
Beneficials in the Garden & Landscape is an Earth-KindTM program coordinated through Extension Horticulture at Texas A&M University. Earth-Kind uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape enjoyment while preserving and protecting our environment.
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