Where Do Lovebugs Come From?

Lovebugs (Plecia nearctica) are small- to medium-sized flies found in Central America and the southeastern U.S. They have a reddish-brown thorax and their black bodies have a velvety appearance. Also known as the honeymoon fly, lovebugs earned their name because they’re almost constantly mating. They don’t even stop while flying or eating!

These insects have a relatively short lifespan. They live just a couple of weeks total, with only 3 to 7 days of that as an adult. In that short time, they have enough time to hatch, develop from larvae into adults, eat, mate, and die.

Their short lifespan is the reason why they hatch in gigantic droves twice per year and mate constantly during this time. When you’re at the bottom of the food chain, the survival of your species depends on you having a lot of offspring.

Where Do Lovebugs Come From?

The initial theory behind the origin of lovebugs was that a lab in Florida created them to reduce mosquito populations.

The theory claimed that researchers genetically altered the mosquito, creating a fly-like female hybrid. This hybrid was sterile, so it would mate with male mosquitos without ever actually being able to reproduce. But the researchers also accidentally created a male lovebug. When both the male and female lovebug escaped the lab, they gave rise to the many billions of lovebugs around today. 

Not only is this improbable, but it’s also been proven to be completely false.

So, where do lovebugs come from?

Lovebugs are actually native to Central America. Over time, they simply traveled to other areas – as most species do as their populations increase or when they simply need more resources.

Now they can be found in many parts of Central America as well as the southeastern portions of the U.S., including Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and as far north as North Carolina.

Love Bugs mating

Brett Hondow/Shutterstock.com

Should I Be Worried About Lovebugs?

No. Lovebugs are a nuisance species but pose no known threat to humans or the environment.

They don’t bite or sting. In fact, they play an integral role in their environments by providing a valuable food source for a plethora of wildlife. They aid in the decomposition process by feeding on detritus. Whether we like it or not, the decomposition of dead plants and animals is important and vital for the planet’s health as well as our own. Through decomposition, lovebugs also help the nutrient cycles. 

The only threat that lovebugs pose to humans is during their breeding season. Hordes of lovebugs can collect on vehicles (even when they’re on the road), get into homes, congregate on warm radiators, and overtake gardens.

The warmth of running engines attracts lovebugs, making them a particular plague to those on the highway. When their lifecycle is complete and they die, they leave thick carpets of their dead all over everything until they decompose or other creatures eat them. This usually happens within a couple of weeks. 

Luckily, these harmless, but certainly annoying, little insects are only a nuisance for about three weeks a year.

What Can I Do About Lovebugs?

Lovebugs tend to only exist in large masses after they hatch. This means that pesticides aren’t generally useful against them. You would also need a lot of pesticides, which hasn’t been an economical approach in the past.

Your best bet is to make sure that your home and vehicle are properly sealed. This will minimize the chances of them getting in and causing any damage, like getting into wet paint or making radiators overheat by covering them like a blanket.

They thrive in moist areas, so keeping moisture to a minimum in your household will help to deter them as well.

There are several species of fungi that seem to secrete compounds that are toxic to lovebugs. As of yet, no funding has been allocated for further research and development of these compounds into an effective pesticide for lovebugs.

How Can I Trap Lovebugs?

There are many lovebug traps out there. You can choose sticky traps, where the insects fly onto the brightly colored sticky paper-like material and become stuck. These work because bright colors are very attractive to lovebugs. They have a similar hue to the flowers that lovebugs collect nectar from. 

Studies have found that particular floral compounds attract lovebugs for the same reason. Depending on where you live, some of these may be available for purchase over the counter. You can place these concentrated compounds in traps that the lovebugs will be able to fly into but not escape from. 

One study found that the most effective trap for lovebugs is the yellow and white Unitrap, which is commercially available in most areas. As an added bonus, these are also quite successful at trapping moths and the invasive (and destructive) Japanese beetles. Lovebug mortality was highest when certain plant pheromones, particularly phenylacetaldehyde (PAA), were used. 

Another approach involves setting out water in bright yellow or white containers. These are the colors that lovebugs seem to be the most attracted to. When the lovebugs fly into the water, in an attempt to get to the colorful container that resembles a flower, they drown.

Regardless of the method you use, set your traps in the springtime. This is when the largest number of lovebugs hatch, so you’ll trap a greater quantity of these bothersome bugs. For best results, place multiple traps in the most populated and problematic lovebug areas.

1 Comments

Benigno Rodriguez Irizarry

The White bowl with water works great….but when baby oil is added….they really go crazy and flight right in to it…is a plus….living in Orlando Florida…This May 2019 is been one very active for the little insects….The fly catcher also works…but the bowl of water is the best.

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