|Don’t worry, they’re not really this big.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
If you’ve visited Disney World in late spring, or in late summer to early fall, you may have come across hundreds of flying insects that seem to have two heads, and not known what they were. Indeed, it seems every year questions arise from visitors in the parks and on Disney message boards about these bugs and if they should be concerned about them.
Allow me to clear up the confusion and tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the Plecia nearctica, more commonly referred to as the “love bug”, and why you have no reason to fear them.
A popular rumor says that the love bug was the result of a scientific experiment created by the University of Florida in an effort to control the mosquito population that went horribly wrong. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth (I’m thinking a Florida State University graduate started that rumor). The bugs originated from Central America and over the course of the 20th century, have spread steadily over many southern states, including Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Annually, you’ll see two major flights of these bugs in Florida – once in the spring that happens between late April and May, and again in late summer, somewhere between August and October. The love bugs stick around for about 4-5 weeks, and in my experience, weather can have a major impact. When it’s been very dry, as it has been this year, the number of insects is far less then when the weather has been rainy.
|A swarm of love bugs at a Walt Disney World bus stop in 2006.|
Love bugs are not double headed, as many believe, instead, they are just often seen joined together in flight. And yes, they are connected so that they can, ahem, “reproduce.” As an aside, unfortunately for the male love bug, after reproduction takes place, the female will eat him from the inside out in order to provide nutrition for the new larvae. Fellas, let that be a lesson to always treat your woman right. And, should I be reincarnated, please let me come back as a duck at the Magic Kingdom and not as a love bug.
Despite their often large number and constant presence (they are attracted to light colors, and since many guests wear lighter colors in hot weather, this explains part of the attraction), the bugs do not sting or bite and are completely harmless to humans. There is not, however, currently any type of insect repellent that appears to keep them away.
One thing they are harmful to, however, is cars. Besides light colors, the bugs are also attracted to exhaust fumes, so it’s common to find them on busy roadways. Of course, insects and vehicles traveling at a high speed don’t mix, resulting in an awful mess on your car. And, the high acidity in their bodies can damage your car’s paint job. So, if you are driving your own vehicle down to Disney World during love bug season, you’ll want to take the time to clean the bumper frequently. While you can buy sprays that are supposed to make it easier to clean up, all you really need is soap, water and elbow grease. A dryer sheet also works well at removing some of the mess.
Bottom line, while the love bugs are a minor nuisance, they in no way will hurt you, and you shouldn’t let it keep you from enjoying your trip. I’d still take a day full of love bugs over a day at work or school!