Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lovebugs

In honor of Valentine’s Day, it seems only appropriate to post about “lovebugs,” the common English name given to a type of march fly known as Plecia nearctica to scientists. “March fly” is the name for all species in the family Bibionidae, among the most abundant and conspicuous of early springtime insects.

Lovebugs can indeed create quite a spectacle, forming massive swarms in the southeastern United States, especially in Florida. The spectacular mating rituals are not considered romantic at all by anyone driving through them in an automobile, especially a convertible. The insects are only 6-9 mm long, but the males (with big, bulbous eyes) and females (tiny heads) often fly in tandem. The pair might appear at first glance to be either Siamese twins or one, two-headed macro-monster.

Fortunately, the phenomenon is very short-lived, and happens only twice each year, once in the spring, with a second generation in the fall. Thankfully, the flies are also harmless, not biting people or pets or causing damage aside from potentially slick, greasy roads (ugh!). More information can be found at an excellent website from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences here; and some nice images are over at Bug Guide.

May your own romantic adventures be just as joyous and fun as those of the lovebugs, but altogether free of the hordes of the insects themselves.

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