For the Love of Lovebugs

Back in the 1960s, this would have been a mild lovebug attack.

Speaking of plagues, at the Hermits’ Rest it’s apparently time for another of those infrequent visitations of the insect kind, the lovebug. This is one of their big years, as the front of my car will attest.

Fascinating creatures, they didn’t show up in the US until the 1960s, much to the delight of those of us who were children at the time. We spent a lot of time devising ways to shoot them out of the sky with the water hose, or pulling them apart (eww). Yes, they spend most of their adult lives mating.

Lovebugs were a real danger during the time when I was in college, traveling up and down through the middle of Florida. People were always on the side of the Florida Turnpike, broken down, because the bugs had clogged their radiators. My 1972 Pinto Squire wagon had a very small radiator; that did not combine well with lovebugs.

The rest stops had special lovebug removal stations set up, so folks could clear their windshields and radiators enough to go home. They sold special screens to put on your car grill to reduct the damage. Wikipedia says that modern car paint doesn’t suffer as much, but in the past you had to get the bugs right off or their acidity would eat into paint. You can see why no one liked them.

I tried to get a photo of live ones, but there aren’t any in Austin.

After a few years of being a really bad problem, they showed up less and less often throughout the southeastern US. Now there are just big lovebug events every few years. We can thank some kind of lovebug fungus for that (and we do).

When they showed up this year, I had quite a visceral reaction to them. I could hear my dad complaining about them, and I could smell all that antifreeze at the rest stops. Luckily, I now know they won’t be back again for a while. And now that I know that their larvae are actually beneficial (they break down decaying plant material, I guess fertilizing things), I am trying to develop a kinder mindset about my old nemisis.

Lovebug outbreaks these days also tend to be localized. Like the sort of gross photo above indicates, while there are lovebugs covering the air above any field in Cameron, there’s not a lovebug to be found 80 miles away in Austin. I looked around, and mine was the only car in the parking garage encrusted with these little darlings. Lucky me.

Have you seen lovebugs where you live? Have any horror stories or funny tales? Do share!



Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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