What Are Lovebugs?

espite their common name, the lovebug (Plecia nearctica) is not a "bug" but a member of the order Diptera. This true fly spends 5-7 months of its life as larvae in the leaf litter feeding on decomposing matter. After a rainy period in the spring (April-May) and again in the fall (September-October) the adults emerge synchronously in large swarms that cloud the air for several weeks. Males appear first and hover over the emergence site waiting for opportunity to mate with subsequently emerging females. They are called "lovebugs" because matings occur in flight with the much larger female controlling the direction of flight. For more information on lovebugs, go to the links below:
University of Florida "Featured Creatures"
University of Florida "Where Did Lovebugs Come From?"
Texas A&M University on Lovebugs

Where Do Lovebugs Come From?

any people don't realize that these little dipterans are actually invaders from Central America and have been working their way northward along the coast. They have been spotted as far north as Wilmington, NC. A research team at the University of South Carolina is interested in understanding how this northward migration is affecting the lovebugs' developmental stability. This effort requires the help of citizen scientists to help us keep track of when and where emergences are taking place. For the more adventurous among you, we are always interested in good photos or video footage of these flies in action!

Lovebugs, Dark-Winged Gnats or Box Elder Bugs?

Many folks from South Carolina (especially near
Columbia) and parts of Georgia are reporting what appears to be a lovebug. However, they may actually be either dark-winged fungus gnats or box elder bugs!

Click here to see more information and photos of dark-winged fungus gnats and box elder bugs.

Are Lovebugs Dangerous?
s immature larvae, they are harmless. In fact, lovebug larvae are helpful to the environment because they breakdown dead plant material and release nutrients back into the soil. However, as adults they can be a nuisance. Large swarms of mating pairs over highways can potentially clog radiator fins causing cars to overheat and dead insects can ruin the car's finish if they are not cleaned off.

Have You Spotted a Mating Pair of Lovebugs?
f you have spotted a mating pair of these flies please send an email to the address above stating the time and place that you saw them. We are
developing a database to track this invader's northward migration and can use your help! If you are feeling very adventurous, and wish to help my research project even more, I am looking for collections of 30+ lovebugs from all over the southeast. The flies can be perserved in ethanol, rubbing alcohol or even vodka (or moonshine) and put into a small jar (baby food jars work well), sealed in a small ziploc bag, and mailed to me at the address above. We will be measuring the flies to determine if body size changes from south to north, as well as their DNA. Also, I am always interested in good photos or video footage to put on my website.

Video Clips
Click here to see a video of lovebugs swarming in west central Louisiana (Thanks to Sherry Strickland for sending this video clip).

Lovebug Poetry
In Flagrante by Anne Hutchinson of Lake Charles, LA