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How lovebug mating endangers drivers

The lovebug ( Plecia nearctica ), the “love bug,” is a species found in Central America and the southeastern United States, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This dipterous insect tends to swarm on the edges of the roads, crossing them in large numbers and impacting the windshields of the vehicles that circulate, with the consequent risk of collision for the driver being prevented from seeing the road.

Windshield covered in lovebug specimens. Windshield covered in lovebugs.

According to its taxonomic classification, the lovebug is the species Plecia nearctica of the family Bibionidae, of the order Diptera, of the class Insecta. They are black insects with a red thorax, and most of the time they can be seen flying in mated pairs, male and female together, as shown in the figure below. They are native to South America, but have moved to Central America.

They are harmless insects, they do not bite or sting, nor are they a threat to crops or ornamental plants. Its larvae fulfill a very useful function in ecosystems, since they are efficient in degrading organic matter of plant origin, thus contributing to enriching soils.

Pair of mated lovebugs. Pair of mated lovebugs.

The lovebug mates twice a year; in spring and late summer. And they do it en masse. First, a swarm of about 40 males is suspended in the air. Females seeking the sperm of the males fly into the swarm and the pairs unite quickly, moving towards a plant in the environment. After mating, the pair stays together for quite some time, feeding together on nectar as shown in the figure above, and looking for a place to deposit the fertilized eggs.

It is at the time of mating that the lovebug becomes dangerous for motorists, who can suddenly find themselves driving the vehicle in the middle of a swarm of these insects, many of which end up smashed against the windshield. In some cases they can completely cover the car, even interrupting the flow of air into the car and causing the engine to overheat. It’s important to quickly remove lovebug debris from car surfaces, as it breaks down in the sun and damages paint.

Therefore, if you’ve been in the middle of a lovebug swarm , it’s important to carefully clean the radiator grill and remove debris from all surfaces of the car. The use of insecticides for its control is not recommended, since although they are annoying, they also play an important role in the ecosystem, since their efficient larvae degrade organic matter of plant origin as already mentioned, while the adults are excellent pollinators.

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Denmark, Harold, Mead, Frank, Fasulo, Thomas Lovebug, Plecia nearctica Hardy . Featured Creatures. University of Florida, 2010.