Love is in the air – proof can be seen on windshields across state|COUNTY EXTENSION DIRECTOR
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 21, 2008
Name that tune — the 1977 disco song sung by John Paul Young that became his only worldwide hit during 1987, peaking at #2 on the Australian charts and spending 2 weeks at #1 on the adult contemporary charts in the United States.
That song — “Love is in the Air” — just has to come to mind if you traveled the highways and byways of Mississippi the last couple of weeks, as the fall love bug swarms began to take flight across the state. From my very informal and partial survey, they have certainly been present from south of Louisville to Vicksburg.
A couple of trips to watch the Mississippi State University Bulldogs in action at Scott Field have rendered our car’s windshield with an abundance of love bug smudges. I know you’ve probably encountered run-ins with the bugs, too.
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Actually, love bugs are really not bugs at all. They are members of the fly family and are scientifically known as Biblonidae dipteral. The insects have a brownish-colored head and thorax and come complete with antenna and compound eyes. Evidently, they use their antenna and compound eyes to very effectively seek out auto windshields and radiators.
Fortunately, love bugs do not bite or sting but car owners sometimes get concerned about the damage the bugs can do to automobile paint. They get their name from their mating behavior and are most often seen paired in flight. While normally spotted south of Interstate 20 to the Gulf Coast, their range is definitely extended to more northern counties this year.
Love bugs fly in swarms in the spring, too, usually in late-April to early-June. Perhaps one reason why they seem to be in such great numbers along road rights-of-way is the fact that they breed in decaying vegetation, such as the grass and leaves on the sides of highways that has been cut and left to decay. There is also some belief that love bugs appear to be attracted to the highways by the exhaust from automobiles. Call it a fatal attraction of sorts.
Nonetheless, love bug smudges on the front of one’s car can actually damage the paint. It is suggested that love bugs be washed from the car within three days of when they splatted. Otherwise, damage similar to an acid-based chemical spot could occur. There are a number of formulations of car-wash soaps available that are made to remove bugs. Commercial car washes normally do a good job getting the bugs off, as well. A couple of other suggestions that help are covers on the front of the car or screens to prevent the bugs from clogging the radiator.
According to our MSU Extension entomologists, we will probably have to deal with love bugs a few more weeks. Love bugs really only live just three to six weeks. The bugs’ life cycle includes hatching as larvae, pupating and emerging briefly as adults. Mississippi has two generations per year and generally the fall generation is heavier than the one in the spring.
It looks like the next time I’ll be on the highway to MSU will be Oct. 11 for the game against Vandy. Perhaps by then I can budget less for windshield washer fluid and more for something from the Bulldog Bakery!
John C. Coccaro is county Extension director. Write to him at 1100-C Grove St., Vicksburg, MS 39180 or call 601-636-5442. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org