Miss-Lou gets biannual visit from insects

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Love is all around us &8212; including all over your car.

The biannual lovebugs rolled into town &8212; or came out from under their leaves &8212; over the weekend, leaving motorists cursing and car washers celebrating.

Jackie Dixon, owner of B&J Carwash on Carter Street in Vidalia, said he appreciates lovebugs.

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&8220;I love &8216;em because of the business they bring,&8221; Dixon said.

Dixon said during this time of year his business washes 20 more cars a day.

Amateur Entomologist Ed Zuccaro said lovebugs, or plecia nearctica, are actually a type of fly that emerges once in May and once in September in the Miss-Lou.

According to the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences Web site, this species of lovebug ranges from as far south as Costa Rica up to the southeastern United States including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.

The insects, nicknamed lovebugs because of their intimate position, technically only mate for several hours a day. The female is the bigger of the pair.

Females mate once, lay eggs and die approximately 68 hours later.

The reason the lovebugs seem to swarm around parked cars and highways is because they are attracted to the gasoline and diesel fumes the automobiles give off, the site says.

Because lovebugs have acidic bodily fluids, the longer the dead bugs are left on the bumper or windshield of an automobile the harder it is to remove them.

Dan Cavin, owner of C & M Auto Detail on Carter Street, said although he gets a lot of business from the lovebugs, he hates them.

&8220;I don&8217;t charge extra for the extra effort it takes to remove them and it takes a real long time to get them off,&8221; Cavin said.

Cavin said the acid from the bugs eat through paint on a car within 24 to 36 hours.

&8220;If left unwashed, you can feel and see a small chip in the paint,&8221; Cavin said.

Both Cavin and Dixon said motorists could prevent paint damage to their cars by either spraying PAM cooking spray or smearing Vaseline on the bumpers and hoods.

&8220;The only problem with these methods is the spray or jelly will attract dust and people will have to wash their cars anyway,&8221; Cavin said.

Zuccaro said as far as he knew there was no such repellant to keep the bugs from automobiles but the bugs were not all bad.

&8220;They are nectar feeders so in the spring they help with the pollination of flowers and fruit trees,&8221; Zuccaro said.

The insects are common in the southern portions of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Texas.