Lovebugs

Lovebugs

I spotted a few Lovebugs (Plecia nearctica) loitering over the grass the other day and absently thought, “Oh, its springtime, they’re back. No, wait, aren’t they supposed be here in late summer?” I looked them up – there are actually TWO crops of these loathsome creatures every year – April-May and August-September. UNHHH. I guess I had tied to put them out of my mind.

At their worst, which is about every year, I can’t imagine a more worthless creature on the face of the planet. There can be thousands and thousands of them, flying aimlessly around, landing all over our cars, our boats, our food, our fresh paint and us and they stink to high heaven. At least they don’t (and can’t) bite. They supposedly only dabble a little nectar and pollen and live only three days or so (though their swarm lasts a month). The female, being the larger of the two, usually takes the lead, lives longer and gets to drag around a corpse for a day or so.

They are almost of no benefit to anyone or anything – except the decomposers that deal with them in the end (though they, themselves are decomposers, feasting on decaying leaf matter in their previous larval form). Nothing much eats them alive because they are too acidic and this acid dries and scars the leading parts of speeding vehicles. Research indicates one reason they are attracted to automobile grillwork is they like engine exhaust and fumes, which is why they are all over our highways. This fascination with fumes is also why they like to get stuck in fresh paint. They also love the color white, which explains why they cling all over our white boats, especially those with fuming engines.

The insect is an invader from Central America, having crossed into Texas around 1911 and has since spread across the Gulf Coast. It is believed their numbers have been limited by a parasitic fungi, so I say, “Hooray the parasitic fungi! We can’t have more parasitic fungi!”

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