They don’t sting and they don’t bite, but they do mate in the air, and you’ve probably noticed them flying near your car.
Lovebugs — the nickname given to a common march fly — have been in unusual abundance in East Texas this year, according to agricultural experts. But they’re on their way out of town, experts say.
“I’ve been in East Texas three years, and I have just seen them here this summer and last week in Overton,” said Erfan Vafaie, an entomologist from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center in Overton.
Lovebugs normally are predominant in areas southeast of Longview, such as Beaumont, according to Randy Reeves, Gregg County AgriLife extension agent.
Reeves said lovebugs were in the area before Hurricane Harvey, but a lot of people are blaming the hurricane for bringing them to East Texas.
“What caused this is that we had a mild winter and a mild summer,” he said, “These things lay eggs in the soil, and it’s been wet, and these things hatch from the soil.”
Reeves said the female is the larger of the lovebugs and can lay 100 eggs at one time.
“I have no clue how many times she does it, but once is too many,” he said.
Because the larvae are in the ground, lovebugs are known as decomposers, because they feed on waste in the soil, Vafaie said.
“They can be a nuisance in your face like fruit flies, and if you are in an area where there are a lot of them, they can decorate your car real nicely,” Vafaie said.
Their life cycle is estimated at three to five weeks, typically starting in the first part of August and ending in September. In areas south of Longview, lovebugs also pop up in the spring, Reeves said.
“They are not as bad as they have been, and I think we are past the peak and they will be gone in a week or two,” Reeves said. “And the farther north you go, you will see less of them.”
Lovebugs also are known by other names, such as double-headed bugs, honeymoon flies and united bugs.
“I used to live south of Beaumont in Hardin County years ago, and they had all kinds of names for them. Let your imagination run wild,” Reeves said.
In southern parts of Texas lovebugs can, indeed, be a pain because they can damage cars if the cars are not properly washed every few days.
“They can clog up a radiator,” Reeves said. “You should clean about once a week. Use some kind of brush or something to get them off the paint. A sponge just ain’t going to cut it. And if you don’t do anything, you stand a chance of damaging your paint.”
To see a video of lovebugs, go to Vafaie’s Facebook page, called Six Legged Aggie, at www.facebook.com/sixleggedaggie/.