Why Are Lovebugs Flying Around My Car?

Why Are Lovebugs Flying Around My Car?

Ahhhh… the lovebug! If you live in Florida or in the Southeast, you are currently being inundated by swarms of lovebugs flying around your vehicle. These insects often end up splatted on your windshield and front grill. Many of the cars coming off the highway are covered in insect gunk. You may be thinking, “Do these critters have a death wish?” Well, there is a reason for everything… read on.

Let’s step back a moment and learn about these critters. The lovebug (Plecia nearctica Hardy) is a species of fly that happens to flutter about as a male and female attached together. Both sexes are a dull black with a red blotch just behind the head. What are they doing flying around in tandem? Essentially the male has copulated with the female and remains attached to keep other males away. The female is looking for a place to lay her eggs, and she lays about 100-300 eggs in the soil under decaying organic matter (e.g., rotting leaves and grasses). After hatching out, the larvae eat the decaying vegetation. Lovebugs are so numerous because conditions are perfect in the Southeast — essentially warm, wet weather. Plus, lovebugs are reported to be bitter and do not have many natural enemies. The red patch behind the head may be a warning coloration.

But why are they attracted to roads and vehicles? As it turns out — tests have shown that lovebugs are attracted to automobile exhaust that has been irradiated with UV light (i.e., sunlight). Why? It has been proposed that the chemicals in car exhaust, aldehydes and formaldehydes, are similar to the chemicals released by decaying organic matter. Even heat is an attractant for lovebugs and heat radiating off asphalt may be attracting these insects. Thus, the lovebugs are not stupid, per se. Roads are warm and have accumulated an abundance of automobile exhaust, mimicking areas that are appropriate for lovebugs to lay their eggs. Lovebugs are tricked into swarming along roads and around vehicles!

The lovebugs have two major eruptions within a year. The first one is late April/May, and lasts about 4 weeks. These adults lay their eggs, the larvae grow, and the next generation of adults emerge August/September. In turn, these adults lay their eggs, the larvae grow much more slowly over the winter, and the adults emerge April/May.

There have been claims that the lovebug gunk, when left on the car, will etch the paint on a car. The gunk that is left on the car does become slightly acidic and if left on for an extended time, it is difficult to remove and may damage the finish. The best solution is to wax the car before taking it out during lovebug season and to remove the splats within 24 hours.

And for those of you in Florida, University of Florida researchers did not genetically engineer lovebugs to kill mosquitoes and researchers did not bring them into Florida. This lovebug species migrated from Louisiana and reached Florida by 1949.

And how can you tell one lovebug splat from another insect? There is a book out there on how to identify that “Gunk on Your Car.” Also, a researcher has discovered how to take the DNA out of the gunk and identify the insects that have splatted on the car. Interesting – no?

Lovebugs are here to stay. Just give your car a good wax job before the onset of lovebug season and the splats on your car will come off relatively easy. I for one marvel at what Mother Nature produces — and hey — these little buggers are actually cute if you take time to look at them.

Common lawn insect pests

Common lawn insect pests

Even though mole crickets may injure any of the lawn grasses we grow in Florida, Bermuda, bahia and centipede are most severely damaged. Mole crickets are active in North Florida spring through fall. The best window of opportunity to control them is June and July.

Soap flush is a technique to check for mole crickets. Mix 2 ounces of liquid dishwashing soap in 2 gallons of water and apply with a sprinkling can to 4 square feet of turf in several areas where mole crickets are suspected. If two to four mole crickets surface within three minutes, then a treatment is probably needed.

Chinch bugs only damage St. Augustinegrass. Chinch bugs are active spring through fall. They are usually found in open sunny areas of the yard during warmer summer weather, particularly if it’s dry.

Inspect a St. Augustine lawn weekly during spring, summer and fall. Look for areas that quickly turn yellow and then straw brown. Part grass at the margin of the yellowed areas and closely examine the soil surface for tiny insects. Immature chinch bugs are pink to bright red and are about the size of a pinhead. Adults are black with white wings and about one-fifth inch long.

Sod webworms’ favor Bermudagrass. They will attack St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass. They usually are not in North Florida until August and continue to feed on lawns until frost.

The small green caterpillars are no larger than three-quarters inch. They mostly feed at night and are curled up on the soil surface during the day. The grass blades will be notched from their chewing and heavily infested turf may appear mowed.

Spittlebugs attack all turfgrass species but centipedegrass is their favorite. The first generation of adult spittlebugs is abundant in June and the peak population is usually in August to early September.

An early sign of spittlebug activity are masses of white, frothy spittle found in the turf. Each piece of spittle contains a single larva. Infested turf turns yellow and eventually brown. Damage usually first appears in shady areas. As the population builds, the one-quarter inch-long adults are abundant. As you walk through or mow an infested area, numerous adult spittlebugs appear to hop when disturbed (actually, they fly for a short distance). The adults are black with two orange transverse stripes across their wings.

For lawn insect control options, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county or contact a reputable and licensed pest control company.

Contact Larry Williams at 689-5850 or 689-5050; or e-mail lwilliams@co.okaloosa.fl.us. He is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida.

Dangerous Termite Turns Up in South Florida

Sun-Sentinel.com: Dangerous Termite Turns Up in South Florida

A uniquely dangerous termite that tunnels up the sides of houses has turned up in South Florida, leading agriculture officials to organize a campaign to wipe it out before it can spread.

The Nasutitermes corniger termite, which is native to the Caribbean, lives above ground, builds brown tubes up the outside walls of houses and shows a particular taste for hardwood. The insect’s above-ground habitat means it would avoid direct competition with native, subterranean termites and raise the total number of termites that could live in the region by 25 to 30 percent, said Rudolf H. Scheffrahn, professor of entomology at the University of Florida.

“They forage on the open floor, which is something you don’t see unless you live in the tropics,” he said. “They love to eat hardwoods. They ate the handles off garden implements, rakes and hoes – turned them into shredded wheat. If this thing really keeps going, it’s going to be a problem for tropical Florida, from West Palm Beach to the Keys.”

A dozen field workers from the Florida Department of Agriculture on Tuesday will blitz neighborhoods in Dania Beach, the only city so far in which the termites have been found, treating 42 properties that harbor the insects. The termite’s beach ball-sized nests, made of termite excrement and constructed above ground, will be sprayed, as well as the foraging tubes running up trees and houses.

On Southwest 25th Avenue, where the termites have been found in several houses and trees, Martha Rosen said she and her husband first noticed strange dark lines going up the sides of their house. Soon they realized what was causing them.

“They got into the tool shed and ate our stack of firewood,” she said. “We went to pick it up and there was no wood left. They’re very aggressive. My trees look like they’re almost dead. ”

The species first showed up in Dania Beach in 2001. Aggressive spraying was thought to have eradicated it, but then it turned up last summer. They are thought to have originally arrived on wooden pallets brought from the Caribbean to a nearby marina, said Michael Page, chief of the Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control for the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Mark Fagan, spokesman for the state agriculture department, said the termite was found in the walls of the International Game Fish Association, just west of Interstate 95 and south of Griffin Road. Since then, he said, they have been found on 42 properties in neighborhoods for about a square mile around that site.

Fagan said the eradication work will take about four days.

The termites are ant-like in appearance. Unlike the 20 or so local species of termite, they can be seen crawling along the ground. If you think you have them on your property, call the Florida Department of Agriculture hotline at 888-397-1517.

“We’re trying to prevent another termite from being established,” Fagan said. “We’ve got plenty of termites in Florida.”

A single nest could harbor 1 million or more termites, Scheffrahn said. With the current infestation of 100 to 120 colonies, there are already more than 100 million of the termites in the area, he said.

He said “time is of the essence,” because any day the winged termites could take to the air to establish new nests.

A Virus May Make Mosquitoes Even Thirstier for Human Blood

A Virus May Make Mosquitoes Even Thirstier for Human Blood

Florida Pet Control


The dengue virus may actually make mosquitoes thirstier for human blood, new research has found.

In a study published last week in PLoS Pathogens, mosquito experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the dengue virus altered the production of proteins made by 147 different genes.

Some changes appeared to make the antennae more sensitive to odors — making them better at hunting humans, the virus’s only known mammalian host. Other changes in salivary gland genes appeared to make it easier for the virus to get into a mosquito’s saliva, ready for injection.

Those tests were done on a genome microarray — snippets of the DNA of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes coating a glass slide. But when the researchers tried to replicate the results in live mosquitoes, they could not prove they were hungrier.

“Since we can’t infect humans for our experiments, we think it’s a problem with the model,” said George Dimopoulos, lead author of the new study.

In his laboratory model, mosquitoes had to drink infected blood from a balloonlike membrane and then were offered mice to bite.

“Mosquitoes will feed on other animals if they get hungry, but it isn’t their favorite dish,” Dr. Dimopoulos said.

Up to 100 million people are infected with dengue each year; it is known as “breakbone fever” for the joint pain it causes. Up to 15,000 die of it annually, most of them children, according to the World Health Organization. There is no vaccine or cure.

Monkeypox Scare is an Important Bed Bug Reminder for Travelers

EMaxHealth.com: Monkeypox Scare is an Important Bed Bug Reminder for Travelers

Last Thursday, health officials tipped off by an overly-concerned mother that her daughter flying-in from Africa may have picked up a contagious disease, placed a 2-hour quarantine on a Delta plane in Chicago. What was presumed to be a possible case of monkey pox evidenced by a rash on the passenger’s skin turned out to be nothing more than probable bed bug bites.

Monkeypox infection appears as a rash that consists of raised, blister-like bumps, and is usually accompanied by fever, headache and lymph node swelling. Bed bug bites, however, can cause a swollen and reddened area that may or may not be itchy, and without the other symptoms of monkeypox.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox is a rare and sometimes fatal disease similar to smallpox that occurs primarily in central and western Africa. Monkeypox is contracted through direct contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids, and can spread among humans through fluids and contaminated clothes or bedding.

In this case, potential bed bug-contaminated clothes in the traveler’s luggage may be the endnote for her quarantine ordeal and one that many other travelers will face this summer.

To help prevent bringing bed bugs as unwanted souvenirs from your next trip, the following biology lesson and tips on bed bug removal from your luggage will keep you and your family bed bug free.

Bed Bug Basic Biology

Bed bugs are oval, flattened, brown, and wingless insects approximately 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch long. Young bed bugs are much smaller at approximately 1/16 of an inch when they first hatch and are colorless until they begin feeding. After an adult bed bug has taken a blood meal from an unsuspecting traveler, its color will change from brown to a dark purple-red and will grow in size morphing into a more elongated cigar-like shape. The presence of bed bugs in a hotel room may be noted by fecal spotting consisting of digested blood and skin castings the bugs shed while growing.

Bed bugs are active reproducers and according to one expert if 40 bed bugs are released into a room, their population will reach over 5,000 bugs in 6 months.

Bed Bug Hiding Places

Bed bugs will seek out beds, clothing and other areas where they sense a potential blood meal may be present. However, visually checking a bed before lying down is no guarantee that your bed or room is bug-free as bed bugs have a penchant for hiding in dark, recessed areas such as cracks and crevices in floors, closets, mattresses and…your luggage were clothing is stored. However, while many are tempted to throw out or burn their luggage in cases of suspected bed bug infestation rather than risk bringing it into their home, experts say that such measures are unnecessary as long as precautions are taken.

Bed Bug Precaution Tips

Tip #1: Bag it

Packing your clothes in zip lock bags before embarking on a trip is a good way to keep bed bugs out of your clothing during travel. Furthermore, placing color-sorted soiled clothing back into the zip lock bags before returning home limits the chances that you will deposit bed bugs in your home. Upon returning home, leave your suitcase outside and carry the pre-sorted clothing directly to the clothes washer before opening.

Tip #2: Wash and dry on high

Heat is your friend when it comes to bedbugs. When washing, set the washer and dryer cycles for the hottest settings that the fabric can withstand. If some articles of clothing cannot take high temperatures, consider going to the dry cleaner and let them know about your bed bug concerns with your clothing.

Tip #3: Skip insecticides for elbow grease

Suitcases pose a special problem as they typically do not fit in washers very well and provide lots of crevices for bed bugs to hide in. Spraying with insecticides can be effective, but may also cause staining and leave behind chemical odors that you will not want on your clothing during your next trip. Experts advise hand-washing suitcases outside the house using soap and the hottest water possible. A target temperature of 100°F to 120°F should be sufficient to kill all bed bug life forms from eggs to adults. Use a scrub brush along the seams and folds to ensure that you are getting to hidden bugs.

Tip #4: Heat or freeze

For luggage or other items that cannot be washed, you may want to consider heating or freezing the bed bugs to death. If the item’s materials can handle it and are not easily combustible, some experts recommend placing the items in an oven heated to a temperature of 120-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Some studies have shown that a 2-hour core exposure at 120°F should be considered as a minimum target temperature for heat treatments-the hotter the temperature, the shorter the “baking” time.

Freezing is another option for items that cannot be washed. However, using the home freezer takes longer than baking it in the oven as a minimum of 23°F must be maintained for at least 5 days.

The thing to remember (aside from safety) is that with heating or freezing, the entire item must reach the temperatures and exposure times recommended to ensure all stages of bed bugs and their eggs are being adequately exposed to result in complete extermination.

While following the tips with every trip may seem to be more hassle than the perceived risk of picking up bed bugs at your hotel or resort this summer, consider the cost and inconvenience if your house or apartment were to become home to these unwanted guests.