Bill Starr: Love is in the air; love bugs, that is!

Published 11:00 pm Monday, September 26, 2016

Fall is just around the corner and what’s not to like about fall? The sky is blue, the temperatures are cooler, and love is in the air! Love bugs, that is. February is usually thought of as the month to celebrate love, but now there certainly is a lot of love in the air. You probably have noticed a lot of black bugs flying around. The love bug has many nicknames, for example, honeymoon fly, telephone bug, kissy bug and double-headed bug. I can remember growing up and getting love bugs all over the front end of my dad’s car; he did not refer to them by any of these nicknames.
Love bugs are small black flies with red thoraxes. Males are one-quarter inch and females are one-third inch in length. Two flights of love bugs occur each year. The spring flight occurs during late April and May. A second flight usually occurs during late summer through September. Flights extend over periods of four to five weeks. Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence of the females. Adult females live only two to three days. Love bugs swarms can number in the hundreds of thousands. Love bug larvae grow up in grassy areas and feed on dead vegetation. Love bugs are a type of fly, and their life cycle follows that of most any insect; they are hatched from eggs which turn into larva, which then pupate and hatch as flying adults.
Love bugs do better when it is wet, damp and humid. describes everything about our summers). Moisture leads to plant growth, which in turn leads to more plants and organic matter available on which love bugs like to feed. Eggs are laid on decaying vegetation. Landscaping around homes can present some prime food plots for love bugs. Mulch, compost and flower beds will all contain the very food and moist conditions females seek when they are looking to lay some eggs. Female love bugs lay from 100 to 350 eggs which are deposited beneath decaying vegetation. Larvae perform a beneficial function by converting the plant material into organic components which can again be used by the growing plants.
The adult love bug does not eat, but subsists on the food taken in during its larval stage. They are much too busy to eat! As flying adults, males have one thing on their minds: find females. Females have two things on their minds: first, find a male and then second, lay eggs. Both must do these tasks quickly since they only live a few days. This crazed ritual is how these bugs received all their nicknames.
Next time you are out in the evenings enjoying the soon to be cooler fall temperatures, remember that LOVE is in the air, well, love bugs are anyway! Next time you are with that special someone ask them “Can you feel the love in the air tonight?” If they say yes, it’s probably because a love bug is stuck in their hair.

Bill Starr is Sumter County Extension agent/coordinator, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 229-924-4476.