Every year, for a few weeks in the spring and fall, it's common to see cars covered in black-and-red lovebugs. But despite their annoying presence, lovebugs have no harmful effect on humans or pets. They are a crucial part of the ecosystem, consuming dead vegetation and returning nutrients to the soil, University of Florida entomologists say. And if they end up on your car, it's not their blood splatter you're seeing; it's their acidic waste.
It's not exactly clear why the bugs swarm in such numbers, but a combination of factors may contribute:
For example, lovebugs are attracted to irradiated exhaust fumes from cars and lawn mowers. They also thrive in warm, wet conditions that allow them to grow and mature. And because they are so easy to find, they tend to swarm near roadways -- a factor that can reduce visibility and cause accidents.
The swarms also are a buffet for hungry birds, bats, spiders and other insects. And lovebug larvae eat rotting plant material and help speed up the decomposition process.
And, if the swarms do make their way into your home, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the number of bugs. For example, a fan running on high can keep the bugs from swarming in your house, and keeping your lawn mowed can help because bug larvae grow in thatch. And a coat of wax on your car can repel them, too.