Love bugs are technically a march fly, not a bug, but regardless of classification, they can be a seriously annoying pest. They are called love bugs because they can be seen slowly flying, attached to each other by the rear, for hours and even sometimes days on end. These flies come from Central America and have found their way into the southeastern United States, especially along the Gulf.
In some ways, these flies are beneficial, as they help to decompose rotting organic matter, but they are known mostly as a frustrating nuisance pest. Love bugs do not bite or sting and they do not pose a health threat to humans, so what's the big deal? Believe it or not, the biggest threat they pose is to your car.
What Do Love Bugs Look Like?
Love bugs are seen all over the Gulf states during mating season, often while flying through the air in pairs during their mating flights. These mating flights occur two to three times a year: Gray clouds of small black flies can be found most commonly congregating in massive numbers over roadways during daylight hours. Love bugs also tend to make their way into gardens, where adults can pile up on nectar-producing flowers.
Up close, love bugs are distinguished from other march flies by their bright red thorax and dark colored wings. Adult love bugs are around 3/8 inch (9.5mm) in length, with the males having slightly smaller bodies and larger eyes than the females.
3 Ways to Get Rid of Love Bugs Around Your Home
As is the case with many pests, extermination is not the goal when it comes to a love bug situation. Because these are a seasonal nuisance pest, dealing with love bugs is more about management and population reduction than extermination.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the presence of love bugs around your home. Keep in mind that chemical applications have been shown ineffective against love bugs. Opt for one of these natural solutions instead.
Run a Fan
If you have a situation where love bugs are coming inside your home, it can be helpful to run a fan to discourage their presence. Love bugs are clumsy fliers, probably because they're constantly joined at the bum. By running a fan, you keep the air in your home moving and deter those clumsy little love bugs from inviting themselves into your space.
Make a Homemade Love Bug Spray
Adult love bugs consume flower nectar. If love bugs are interrupting your view of your beautiful garden, feel free to concoct a simple homemade spray that can be used to kill them on contact. Combine the following ingredients in a spray bottle:
- 3 tablespoons of mouthwash
- 3 tablespoons of citrus dish soap
- 1 cup of water
Mow Your Lawn and Clean up Yard Waste
Love bug larvae do well in thick, dense, grassy areas. To discourage their larvae from doing well in your lawn, keep your grass mowed. Be sure to dispose of the clippings so love bugs don't find them and lay their eggs.
Yard waste is the perfect food source for love bug larvae. During mating season, love bug females will lay anywhere from 100 to 350 eggs in moist, dense organic matter. If grass clippings, dead leaves, or other plant matter is available, it could encourage love bugs to lay their eggs there.
Avoiding Love Bug Damage to Your Home and Car
Hold off on Painting
If you have any outdoor painting projects, hold off on them until peak love bug season is over. Love bugs are attracted to fresh paint, especially light colors. The last thing you want are a bunch of flies stuck in your sweet new paint job. It can be frustrating to plan parts of your life around the behavior of a pest, but these seasons only last four weeks, and then you can carry on with business as usual.
If you need to travel during peak love bug season, try to do so at night, and drive slowly. Peak love bug activity hits around 10 a.m. and stops at dusk. By traveling at night, you give yourself the best chance of avoiding contact with love bugs, and by driving slowly, you minimize the splatter if they are still hanging above the roadway.
If you need to be driving around during peak love bug season, you need to make sure your car is up to the task. Love bugs are acidic, and when they splatter on your car, they could permanently damage the paint. Wax your car before you travel to reduce the damage done by love bug acid.
Don't forget to protect your car's radiator with a grill screen, as well. A screen keeps love bugs out so they don't clog up your car's air intake and cause an overheating issue.
Wash Your Car
After a car trip through love bug swarms, be sure to clean your car within 3 days of travel to avoid permanent damage. If the splatters on your vehicle are, in fact, love bugs, you're going to need to soak these areas for several minutes with water to remove the love bug residue. If you aren't feeling up to the task, don't hesitate to find a professional car detailing service.
Signs of Love Bugs
Love bugs can show up a variety of places, such as in the garden, in swarms over the road, and smashed all over the front of cars.
Many times, people don't realize there's a love bug issue until they're driving through a cloud of them on the freeway and have their vision restricted. It is important to drive safely during peak love bug season, and to avoid going out on the roads if you can. When you find smashed love bugs on the front of your car, be sure to clean if off quickly so it doesn't cause long-lasting damage that requires expensive repairs.
What Causes Love Bugs?
In the U.S., love bugs are active primarily along the Gulf Coast. They are an invasive species that has been present in the in the United States since the 1940s. After they were first noted, love bugs spread all along the Gulf Coast by 1975. While they can be seen throughout the warm, summer-time months, love bugs are most heavily active during late spring and late summer months during their mating flights. This activity only lasts four weeks.
Do love bugs bite?
No, love bugs do not bite or sting and do not pose any health threats to humans.
Will love bugs go away on their own?
Yes and no. Love bugs come and go with the changes of the seasons. Some summers are much worse and others are not. Science doesn't exactly have a reason for this. Once their mating season is over, they should, for the most part, dissipate on their own, though you may see them from time to time.
Where do love bugs come from?
Love bugs moved from Central America into the United States in 1940. By 1975, they had spread all throughout the gulf states.