Look out … the love bugs are back

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 1999

The scourge of windshields has returned for another season of blinding passion: The love bugs are back.

These insects have returned to the Miss-Lou, hatching and mating in mid-air, creating havoc for anyone in their path.

Dr. Greg Henderson is an urban entomologist and associate professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where he teaches classes on insect behavior and urban entomology.

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&uot;Love bugs belong to the insect family bibionids,&uot; Henderson said. &uot;Also called March flies, they swarm in March and September in the gulf states.&uot;

A cousin to the mosquito and house fly, the life cycle of the love bug is about a year, and most of that time is spent underground, feeding on the roots of grasses.

&uot;With all this rain we’ve been having, that has allowed them to develop at this time, spurring a large release of adults,&uot; Henderson said.

Once released, the adults go immediately into mating position, which has earned them their name, love bugs.

&uot;They’re not frequently seen outside of this mating position,&uot; Henderson said.

Once mating is complete, the male drops away and dies and the female finds a vacant field in which to lay her eggs. That chore complete, the female also dies.

The true annoyance of love bugs is their body chemistry.

&uot;They contain a chemical that is unpalatable to other animals who might eat them,&uot; Henderson said. This built in defense system also produces a chemical strong enough to stain or eat away at car paint.

&uot;If they aren’t cleaned away quickly, they can damage the finish on a car,&uot; Henderson said.

It’s not just the love bugs who can get overheated in their mating dance.

&uot;I’ve also heard of people’s cars overheating because so many love bugs had collected on the radiator,&uot; Henderson said.

People might consider controlling the love bug population by applying pesticides to grassy areas, but Henderson advises against it.

&uot;It’s something that rarely works,&uot; he said. The amount of insecticide needed to kill the love bugs could be dangerous to other animals. Besides a little inconvenience, they’re basically harmless.&uot;

Susan Morace of Personal Touch Car Wash in Vidalia, La., said she hasn’t seen that many love bugs at her car wash.

&uot;I haven’t noticed that many yet,&uot; she said. &uot;To get them off, we use a compound wash with high grade detergent and high pressure wash.&uot;

Monroe Sago at the Quality Car Care Center on Jefferson Street in Natchez said the love bugs haven’t been a problem.

&uot;I don’t have any problems with love bugs,&uot; he said. &uot;The chemical I use gets them right off.&uot;