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Get ready — Love bugs are back

We are all familiar with the twice a year invasion of lovebugs (Plecia  nearctica). These pesky insects signal changes in the seasons, from spring to summer and again from summer to fall.

Other common names for this insect include March flies, double-headed bugs, honeymoon flies and some expletives that are not repeatable. Lovebugs characteristically appear in excessive abundance throughout South Mississippi as male-female pairs, making their appearance every April-May and August-October. They are considered a nuisance pest, as opposed to destructive or dangerous.   

There are many myths or conjecture surrounding the origin and habits of the lovebug. It appears that they are here to stay, so we might as well know the truth about this illegal alien.

Origins — Over the course of the twentieth century, lovebugs migrated from Central America, traveling through Texas and Louisiana to get to Mississippi.

Attractants — Lovebugs are attracted to diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes. Hot engines and the vibrations of automobiles apparently contribute to the attraction of lovebugs to highways.

Active Times — Lovebugs are usually active between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., in temperatures above 84 degrees.

Mating Season —  Each generation of lovebug lasts about four weeks in May and August-September. Typically there are two main generations during this time, but the insects can be seen throughout the summer.

Problems — Large numbers of lovebugs can cause overheating of engines, reduce visibility and eat automobile paint.

Solutions — Within about twenty minutes after a lovebug-filled drive, wash your car and scrub to remove lovebugs. A hood air deflector will reduce the number of splattered lovebugs on your car.

Pesticides — Chemical controls are ineffective. The lovebug is widespread and continually drifts onto highways from adjacent areas.

It is nearly impossible to avoid lovebugs and the problems they cause. Let’s be thankful that unlike some of their close relatives, lovebugs do not bite, sting, transmit diseases and are not poisonous.

Get ready! The invaders are back.

Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at rebecca.bates@msstate.edu.