Living Sanibel: Short happy life of the love bug
In its larval stage, the love bug is a beneficial insect that feeds in grassy areas on the dead vegetation found within the thatch. They live for up to nine months in this stage, but once they become flying adults they seldom last longer than a week. The males are the first to perish, generally within the first 48 hours after breeding, whereupon the females drag their bodies around with them until she lays her eggs.
It is these massive love bug swarms that have made them such a nemesis in Florida. Love bug swarms occur in Florida in the late spring, late summer and on occasion, during mid-December, and can number in the hundreds of thousands. Although love bugs do not bite or sting, their bodies contain an acidic, yellow blood that has been known to take the paint off of the front of cars covered in their dead bodies. They have also been known to clog up radiators to the point where cars and trucks overheat, sometimes resulting in blown engines.
They are easy to identify, because as adults they are almost always seen flying stuck together in a prolonged mating arrangement that can last up to twelve hours! Oddly enough, very few insects, birds or lizards eat love bugs due to their acidic taste. A handful of spiders appear to be able to eat them but most of the predation comes during their larval stage, when they are far more palatable.
This is an excerpt from The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.