The University of Florida and the Florida Watermelon Association partner in many research and education issues related to watermelons grown in the Sunshine State. One interesting insect-related issue is the short season of love bug flights that happens to coincide with watermelon harvesting and shipping season. Love bug flights can be very great in some years and cover much of the entire state. The great flight periods even create the need for windshield wash stations at Interstate Highway rest stops. But there is no direct association of love bugs as a pest in watermelon crops. Florida watermelon growers implement a series of standard operating procedures at the packing houses to minimize the number of love bugs that happen to inadvertently hitch a ride as watermelons are loaded.
Love bugs are not a pest of any agricultural crop and they do not spread diseases to plants, animals or humans. They do not sting or bite, are not poisonous to eat, and are not known to cause allergies. They do not place their eggs on crop plants and young lovebugs are not found on crops. They live under decaying vegetation in grassy or weedy areas with adequate moisture. Adult love bugs are flies related to blind mosquitoes, nuisance gnats and some other annoying insects.
Love bugs are not of regulatory concern. These pesky insects are native to Yucatan, Mexico and live in regions with a tropical to sub-tropical climate. Consequently, they have reached their ability to spread west to eastern Texas, throughout Florida and north to South Carolina. In Central and North Florida, lovebugs and their close relatives can occur in large numbers twice each year for about two weeks in April-May and August-September.
The best way to deal with lovebugs is to avoid them, rather than attempt to use an insecticide that can only remove them temporarily from a local area. They cannot fly upwind, so fans can be used to blow them away. Love bugs are unable to penetrate screened enclosures, or netting, and quickly die if blown against a wall or other solid structure. Unless the surface is sticky, they fall and accumulate in piles that can be removed with a vacuum cleaner. Water containing a small amount of dish detergent can be used to wash lovebugs from most surfaces. Lovebugs do not fly at night and are not active in the early morning. Therefore, they are not attracted to insect light traps but can be captured on yellow sticky cards and other traps baited with phenylacetaldehyde.
For more information on lovebugs, please contact the UF/IFAS Extension office in your county or visit www.ipm.ifas.ufl.edu/community/Lovebugs.shtml and www.entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/lovebug.htm.
Norman C. Leppla, Ph.D., BCE
Professor & Program Director, IPM
Department of Entomology and Nematology