BY THE TIME you read this, it is likely that the brief, biannual “love bug season” will have come and gone.
Love bug season (one of two) is generally in the Gulf Coast area, although these nasty critters seem to like the Pineywoods most of all.
Late spring — April and May — are the first and heaviest season. That’s when they come out of decayed vegetation and fill the air. It’s a mating season and the bugs connect and fly around that way.
Or, as the now-very old joke goes: How does a love bug travel? Why, they Fly United, just as the old United Airline commercials stated.
It isn’t uncommon, at the height of that initial mating season, to see large black clouds of them over a roadway. They are drawn to heat and to bright, shiny surfaces — glass, car bodies, engine heat, etc. There are other names for them, of course, but this is a family newspaper.
SOMEONE ONCE commented that the love bugs were “engineered to eliminate mosquitoes.”
Ha! First of all, there’s no official evidence anywhere that these creatures were “engineered” to do anything. There has been considerable research about them but thus far they don’t seem to be much of a threat to anything except to your car’s paint job and glassed areas, especially the windshield and headlights. They don’t do your front bumper, headlights and grill any good either. And, if you don’t pay close enough attention, they’ll prevent the air from helping cool your radiator and coolant system.
Their “love time” is reportedly short and focused on producing enough eggs to be laid on vegetation to hatch out at the proper time and recreate the black clouds that send shudders of disgust down one’s spine and, if they hit enough auto body paint, into one’s wallet.
APPARENTLY, moisture/humidity are necessary to their environment, thus, West Texas, you’ve lucked out.
They play havoc with someone mowing an East Texas lawn. Just ask our son, Weston. When a young high-schooler in Jasper, he had to perform that task most of the time. One day, Julie related to me, Weston came dashing into the house hacking, coughing, sputtering and spitting.
“One of those ding-nab, dadgum L-O-O-O-V-E bugs flew into my mouth! Please don’t make me go back out there and face those nasty bugs!”
Julie assured him that while he was mowing he was killing thousands with every turn of the mower blades, gave him a mask to cover his nose and mouth and he went defiantly cha-a-a-a-r-ging out onto the lawn and mowed with a vengeance.
I was told once, and believed it until I did some research, that the vile airborne bugs were brought to America by equipment and troops returning from Vietnam.
NOT SO. They are common to the U.S. Gulf Coast, as well as to Georgia and South Carolina and to Central America.
Parasitic fungi offer some threat to love bugs, thus some control. Dry weather, the bane of anyone trying to raise something, also contributes to eliminating any mass hordes of love bugs. Scientists say the bugs are not the favored food of most insectivores. It is said they have an acidic taste.
Their natural enemies, other than us, are quail and robins. Spiders, earwigs, a couple of species of beetle larvae and centipedes are predators that are enemies of the love bugs.
So, at least during the so-called love bug season, resist the temptation to stomp on any other bug. They just might eat the love bugs out of your house and home.
And, the airline says: Please don’t hold those interlocked bugs against United. Describe them in some other way, but “when YOU fly, Fly United.”
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.