love bugs

Late spring ‘tis the time of year when those mysterious lovebugs are everywhere (especially spattered on the front of your car where they may clog the radiator, obscure vision or, if left too long, damage the paint).  Not only do they appear in great numbers in May, but lovebugs pop up again around September.

Members of the March Fly family (Bibionidae), our local black and orange love or honeymoon “bugs” (Plecia nearctica) are among the more primitive flies.  The adults feed on flowers and the larvae consume humus in the soil.  Larvae may be very numerous and are often gregarious, being found in great numbers within a single cavity in the soil.  As you would imagine, they are very important ecologically as decomposers and as a relatively low link in the food chain. Lovebugs are so-called because they spend most of their early mornings and late afternoons hovering over areas where freshly metamorphosed adults are emerging.  Females are grasped by males as they crawl up vegetation or immediately after launching on their maiden flights.  Regardless of where the pairs come into contact, copulation is initiated on vegetation.  Then comes the honeymoon flight which usually lasts for two to three days.  During mating, the females do most of the flying and when she stops to feed on a flower, the male usually hangs off the side out of reach of the food, adding to his exhaustion from the experience!

After the pairs have separated, the females return to the soil to lay eggs and the cycle continues.