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East County Wednesday, May 23, 2018 2 years ago

Bugged by squished insects in East County?

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Local residents have little affection for May swarm of lovebugs.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

They’re harmless, but they’re everywhere.

Although lovebugs are a constant every year in May, they seem to be more constantly annoying this year in East County.

Characterized by their constant mating and having their insides smeared all over your car, lovebug season means extra cleaning.

Car wash operators have seen business pick up. Tony Milen, the owner of Clear Sunset Car Wash and Detail Center in East County, said he’s seen cars covered in lovebugs so thick it’s hard to tell the car’s color.

“Something about their acidity makes it so they eat away at the top layer of paint on the cars, the clear coat,” Milen said. “They bake in the sun, and they get stuck on there forever if you don’t come in to get them off.”

Milen said pickup trucks and fleet vehicles, seem to get the worst of it, and those operators are more likely to see long-term effects on their vehicle’s paint because they don’t wash them off in a timely manner.

“Something about their acidity makes it so they eat away at the top layer of paint on the cars, the clear coat. They bake in the sun, and they get stuck on there forever if you don’t come in to get them off.”

Victor Waldron, manager of Lakewood Auto Collision, gave a tip for washing off squished lovebugs.

“People will take fabric softeners, dip them in buckets of water, and use that to get them off the car without it damaging the paint too much,” Waldron said. “You just have to do that before the bugs are there for 48 hours.”

Mark Latham, a Manatee County Mosquito Control District entomologist (someone who studies insects), said the lovebugs are worse this year thanks to the weather.

“It all has to do with a weather pattern and seasonal changes. Whether it was a dry winter or early warmer temperatures, these lovebugs usually appear in May,” Latham said.

This February was one of the hottest on record, beating the 1959 record by 1.4 degrees for an average high temperature of 71.9. This unexpected warm weather eventually led to a larger number of lovebugs seen during May.

Latham said humans don’t have anything to fear from lovebugs, other than they make a mess.

“They’re a nuisance, and they swarm in large numbers,” Latham said. “They’re attracted to things that smell like gas. If you leave an open can of gasoline outside overnight, you’ll find that lovebugs have swarmed it the next morning.”

Latham said the rumor about lovebugs being a synthetic genetic experiment gone wrong by scientists at the University of Florida is not true.

“Lovebugs have been around for 50 years in this area,” he said. “People who call us and ask what the deal is with the lovebugs must not have lived here for very long.”

Actually, lovebugs aren’t bugs at all. They are a member of the fly family.

Myakka City resident Curtis Houston is used to the lovebugs coming every year, and he learned he must deal with it the same way every time.

“I just think it’s annoying that I have to keep bringing the car in (to the car wash),” Houston said.

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