The term “lovebug” may bring to mind the image of a classic VW Bug or even evoke warm and fuzzy feelings about a loved one. But the term of endearment originated with Alecia nearctica, a species of fly that latches onto its mate and won’t let go.
While there has been a long-standing rumor that the University of Florida created lovebugs during an experiment to control mosquitoes, the Crowley Museum and Nature Center has debunked this rumor. Lovebugs migrated to the United States from Central America in the 1920s, and by the 1940s, they were a staple in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.
Lovebugs thrive in moist, humid areas and can be a particular indicator of the changing of the seasons. You can spot them twice a year in their adult phase coupled up and swarming in April/May and August/September. In their larvae stage, lovebugs live in the ground and make homes out of leaf litter and decomposing matter.
Lovebugs have a short life span – roughly six months. They emerge from the ground in the spring to mate, lay eggs, and then perish a few weeks later. The eggs laid in the spring emerge as adults in the fall, and the process cycles through again. Once out of the ground and in their adult stage, lovebugs pair up and mate while in flight.
Their mating process consists of the male lovebug attaching to the female lovebug, only disengaging during the day when they’ve paused to rest on vegetation. The act of mating can take up to twelve hours and ultimately results in the female lovebug dying within 86 hours of laying her eggs.
While lovebugs are a non-native species in the United States, they don’t cause any harm. They play a crucial role in our ecosystem by helping with decomposition. While living in the ground during their larvae stage, they eat dead leaves and plant matter, helping to convert it into soil. As adults, they aid in pollination by taking flight and feeding on pollen and nectar.
Lovebugs are annoying as they swarm in large numbers (they are a member of the fly species, after all!). Many Florida residents can attest to the frustration of having them swarm around cars and on major roads. Researchers have discovered that car exhaust fumes and heat from car engines are major aphrodisiacs for lovebugs.
Annoying attributes aside, entomologists and researchers have confirmed that lovebugs do not bite or spread diseases. An insect that only appears twice a year, isn’t harmful to humans, and plays an essential role within our ecosystem? Indeed, what’s not to love?
Lovebugs may not cause any harm this spring, but mosquitoes and their potent bites can. Contact your local Mosquito Squad today!