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Preserve vehicles by keeping lovebugs off
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cooler weather, turning leaves and black smears on windshields and vehicle hoods mean one thing in Mississippi -- lovebug season has arrived.
Lovebugs are scientifically known as Plecia nearctica and are small, black-winged flies with orange middle sections. They produce two generations a year, one in late spring and the second in September and October. Pairs fly around attached when mating.
Blake Layton, entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said lovebug populations are cyclical, and it appears fewer bugs ended life as windshield decorations this year.
“Lovebug numbers have not been as heavy this fall as usual,” Layton said. “They thrive in wet conditions, but this summer was very dry, and they tend not to do as well when it's dry.”
Lovebugs breed in decaying organic matter found in lawns, pastures and other green areas. They do not bite or pose a threat to humans or animals.
“Any open, grassy area can produce literally thousands of adult lovebugs,” Layton said. “This is why there is no good treatment for lovebugs -- they breed over such a large area and in such numbers that it would not be practical or logistically feasible to attempt control.”
Drivers who complete a long trip to find their vehicles black with insect bodies may suspect lovebugs have a death wish. They are not far from right.
“The adults are attracted to compounds in the exhaust of both gas- and diesel-powered engines,” Layton said. “That is why they concentrate on and along roadways where many end up on windshields and hoods and in radiators.”
Lovebugs can do more than mar the appearance of vehicles. Layton said dead lovebugs can clog radiators and cause vehicles to overheat. Their bodies become acidic as they decay, and those attached to a vehicle's paint can quickly break down the finish.
“It is a good idea to wash them off vehicles regularly,” Layton said. “This is best done by wetting the surface and allowing smashed insects to soak for a few minutes before washing them off with soapy water.”
Products are available commercially to help with insect removal. Layton said some people who live in lovebug-infested areas use hood deflectors on their vehicles to reduce the number of these and other insects that accumulate on windshields.
Herb Willcutt, Extension agricultural engineer, said there is another very good reason to keep the lovebugs off vehicles.
“Clean vehicles reduce fuel consumption,” Willcutt said. “A clean and waxed car has a small improvement in fuel economy over one that is dirty.”
Willcutt urged those removing lovebugs to preserve the paint finish.
“Use a high-velocity hose to knock the dirt off and a sponge to wash away the bugs. Rinse your sponge out well so you don't keep grinding grit around like sandpaper,” he said.
Contact: Dr. Blake Layton, (662) 325-2085