Just in time for Valentine's Day, in this issue we are featuring the infamous love bugs (Plecia neartica). Although their name does not imply it, love bugs are actually flies, having only 2 wings. They belong to a family called "March flies" which are mostly small, dark insects that appear in the spring. It is rare to see a single love bug, as they tend to be most visible when they mate. The larvae live in moist soil and eat plant debris, while the adults, which only live a week or so, are attracted to nectar. In fact, while the pair mates, the female often continues to feed. She is the larger of the two and therefore usually decides where they go. The males have enormous eyes ("The better to see you, my dear") but otherwise look similar to the females.
While we only find the occasional pair in our neighborhood, more favorable habitats produce love bugs in profusion. Although they are weak fliers, they swarm and mate in the air, often attracted to open areas such as roads, and can be so thick that they coat windshields and radiators of vehicles, causing lack of visibility and engine overheating, not to mention a generally gooey mess.