Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Meet Florida's Version of the Cicada

The Green Girlfriend and I went to Sarasota, FL for the weekend and got a six-legged surprise as soon as we arrived at the airport. The windows at SRQ were crawling with love bugs, so named because they spend their entire adult lives joined at the rear end in a mating ritual.

Love bugs are Florida's answer to the cicada -- harmless bugs that arrive suddenly and in huge numbers, living only to mate and fly clumsily into your ear causing you to involuntarily smack yourself in the side of the head.

But while dogs and squirrels call a temporary truce in their eternal feud to share in the feast of the cicadas, the love bugs have few natural predators. I didn't see any animals eating them, and one website indicated love bugs simply don't taste very good because they're highly acidic.

That same acidity makes the little bugs a gigantic pain for drivers. Spattered love bugs are very hard to scrape off of cars, and left uncleaned, will quickly cause permanent damage to the car's paint job.

I heard the rumor that the love bugs were somehow brought to Florida as a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong, but according to the Urban Legends site, that's false. They more likely hitched rides on ships and stayed in Florida for the prime real estate and great early bird specials.

According to the Internet's unimpeachable source of information, Wikipedia, urban sprawl has helped spread the lovebug:

Commercial use of cut sod for "instant" green lawns transports great numbers of the larvae of this insect, once found only in agricultural areas, to all of the newly built developments sprouting up in the towns of the regions where its numbers are increasing so rapidly as a new phenomenon.
Since they're not a native species, ordinarily I might rip love bugs a new ... whatever love bugs have back there. But love bugs are beneficial because their larvae eat mostly dead vegetation, recycling organic material and improving the soil, so they get a pass.
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