The lovebug refers to one or two species of the genus Plecia, and most often to P. neartica which is found in Florida, parts of Texas, the Carolinas, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Lovebugs tend to travel in pairs, especially during mating season, and may be called two-headed bugs, honeymoon flies, kissy bugs, and a variety of other names, generally not so flattering. The lovebug is best known as a nuisance to drivers, since the bugs in pairs have a tendency to careen into windows and others parts of moving cars. When this occurs, you absolutely must clean your car within the next day or so, because the bugs have a high acid content that can destroy paint on vehicles.
Many pairs get attracted to the cooling systems of cars and may climb into engines. This can cause engine overheating, and it makes most people hate the lovebug with suitable energy. There’s also a persistent urban legend that lovebugs were actually genetically engineered by “the government,” but that some got away. This is not true; Plecia species range up and down most parts of South and Central America and there are over 200 species in all. The appearance of the lovebug in Florida and Texas is a result of migration and not evil scientists.
Aside from being a nuisance to drivers, lovebugs don’t do much in the way of damage to the environment. They don’t bite people, and their larva may actually improve orange crops. Oranges near lovebug habitats tend to have brighter colors, because lovebugs are excellent at recycling organic matter in the soil
They do tend to appear in high numbers, especially during mating season, which can occur twice yearly in May and September. The name is quite obvious, since the bugs not only swarm but also travel in pairs, frequently connected to each other. They’re clearly a little less cautious at peak mating season and some say reckless and suicidal, hence the word “love” to describe their avid mating practices.
The lovebug, due to its high acid content, doesn’t have many natural predators. Efforts to control these honeymooning pests with pesticides haven’t been effective. In all, though, they’re usually more of an annoyance than they are a problem. You’ll probably recognize lovebugs if you see them. These winged insects have red heads and black bodies, and can weigh anywhere from 6-25 milligrams. Females are notably larger than males. What’s most striking, especially during mating seasons is mating pairs don’t disengage even when in flight.
Scientists have studied why these bugs appear to swarm near highways and have revealed some interesting answers. One explanation is that lovebugs appear to be attracted to the heat generated by engines, and thus are attracted to highways where a lot of car engines are functioning. Any stretch of highway in Southern states may pass by areas where lovebugs mature, usually in damp fields or under manure.