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Lovin' the Love Bugs

By Mike Savidge

Larry was screaming at the top of his lungs, “I love you Louise and I want to spend the rest of my life with you”. 

Louise, shouting to be heard over the din of the passing traffic, replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll hold you close and never let you go until the day I die.”/p>


Actually, I don’t know if Larry and Louise were their real names. And, I can’t say with total certainty that was the exact conversation they were having immediately prior to their demise. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it’s going to take more than Windex to clean up the remains. From my bike's windshield, that is. That’s where the amorous couple, along with dozens of their friends, said adieu to this world and punched their tickets for Love Bug Heaven on a recent warm spring day.

If you do some riding in Florida for a few years you’ll become accustomed to the biannual swarms of love bugs that seem to be attracted to highways and byways like bargain hunters to those blue light specials. You know you’ve seen them, flying two-by-two, attached end-to-end, doing their own fluttering insect version of the mile-high club. They’re also called the honeymoon fly, telephone bug, double-headed bug, and March fly, but the scientific name is Plecia nearctica Hardy.  They’re less than an inch long, black in color, with a patch of red behind their heads. Girl bugs are a bit bigger than the boy bugs but they need the extra heft to enable them to maintain flight with the male corpse attached. You see, once the male performs his reproductive duty, he dies but continues to remain attached until the female lays her eggs and also dies. (Unless they happen to meet a certain windshield prior to that event.) If successful in avoiding the deadly roadways, or getting devoured by a hungry bird or lizard, the typical love bug can expect to live about two to three days out of the three to five weeks when they’re active each season. 

A popular myth is that an environmental experiment at the University of Florida created the bugs. The story goes that they were being bred to help control the mosquito population in Florida and some of them were accidentally released into the wild and began to flourish. Good story, but not true. The love bugs are native to Central America and arrived in the United States on cargo ships and spread from the ports into several southern states. Since the mid-1940’s the bugs have been annoying Sunshine State motorists. And, unfortunately, they’ve never been known to have developed that taste for mosquito meat. 

If you ride, it’s almost impossible to avoid them because one of their favorite places to lay eggs is in the dead grasses along our roads and highways. That’s when they perform their only useful chore by feeding on the decaying vegetation. They then take flight looking for love. I’ve gotta believe they’re at, or above, the curve on social networking as you never see them flying alone so they gotta be hooking up somewhere before taking flight. Are there singles bars or perhaps a Starbucks? Mated pairs of love bugs are not what you’d call aerodynamically efficient and I doubt they’re giving their full attention to where they’re going. This results in the bug-splattered vehicles you see on the road and also makes it easier to figure out the bikers who ride without a windscreen. Dude, what is that crawling around in your beard? 

Removing the bugs from your bike should be done quickly and with care as those little carcasses can be lethal to some paint jobs along with looking downright nasty. Come to think of it, those bugs in the beard could be lethal to some relationships. 

(Originally published in Go For A Ride Magazine June 2011)