As lovebugs swarm, UF researchers working on the perfect trap

They’re back. The pesky fly known as the lovebug is here for one of its three annoying flight seasons in South Florida. The lovebugs, most often seen in male-female pairs, are a nuisance when hordes of them are blown against a vehicle traveling on the highway.

Motorists are left with a sticky white goo that can damage their vehicles’ paint jobs, clog radiators and obscure a clear view through the windshield.

University of Florida entomologists Ronald Cherry at the Everglades Research & Education Center in Belle Glade, and Steven Arthurs at the Mid-Florida Research & Education Center, Apopka, are working together to develop the perfect trap for catching love bugs.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce the population,” said Cherry, who has conducted lovebug research as a sideline to other projects focused on agricultural pests for more than 15 years.

The idea was to find which colors, scents and types of traps attract the most lovebugs. Ultimately, a trap could be marketed for homeowners’ yards. It could also be used in other places, such as gas stations off Florida’s Turnpike, where motorists often encounter large numbers of lovebugs.

Grassy areas and pastures where lovebugs lay their eggs are to blame for swarms near the turnpike. That area is known as the “urban-rural fringe.” The adults also feed on nectar from flowers.

However, years ago some researchers concluded the insects are attracted to the formaldehyde found in gasoline and diesel fumes as well as to hot engines and vehicle vibrations.

“I see a lot of them around gas stations,” Arthurs said. “There is something to that. They are also attracted to freshly painted surfaces.”

Cherry and Arthurs determined the insects favor the colors white and yellow. Cherry speculates the insects have a natural affinity to white and yellow because many flowers are those colors.

They found the lovebugs are drawn to a floral compound called phenylacetaldehyde. It attracted three times as many lovebugs as of couple of other substances they tested. The scent is found in such flowers as the hydrangea and plumeria.

After testing 10 or so kinds of traps, they concluded that a cylinder-shaped yellow-and-white plastic bucket with the lure in the top and an insecticide in the bottom works well to catch and kill the lovebugs.

“Essentially, the trap is fine. What we have been trying to do this year is to develop a commercial lure. The lure is just one we make in the lab,” Arthurs said.

Cherry said the trap is also a valuable tool for biologists to use to learn more about when and where the lovebugs fly.

“Now we need to to determine if they can be controlled,” Cherry said.

Take heart, lovebug haters. The pests’ April to May flight ends soon. Of course, its next mating season, August to September, will be here in a couple of months.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Convicted murderer mistakenly released from jail 
Convicted murderer mistakenly released from jail 

The Georgia jail that mistakenly released a convicted murderer said no one will be disciplined for what happened. The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office realized a mistake was made after the murder victim's family saw the murderer on the streets. "Sounds like somebody didn't relay the right information or didn't look," one DeKalb County...
Weisberg Stables provides oasis for at-risk kids
Weisberg Stables provides oasis for at-risk kids

At Weisberg Stables north of Indiantown Road, Karin Taylor is hand-feeding fresh strawberries to six red-foot tortoises so the fruit doesn’t get sandy. She’s just given Bennett the wallaby his bottle of formula. It’s a typical morning at the 20-acre farm in Ranch Colony for Taylor, who worked as an international model for 12 years...
NEW: Wellington election sees big drop in donations from 2016 races
NEW: Wellington election sees big drop in donations from 2016 races

With two races on the ballot in Wellington on March 13 — seat 2 held by Councilwoman Tanya Siskind and seat 3 held by Vice Mayor John McGovern — candidates are seeing a return to village politics seemingly without the million-dollar influence of political-action committees and landowners that drove the 2016 election. Siskind, 49, faces...
Britney Spear’s ex K-Fed wants child support increase amid star’s Vegas success
Britney Spear’s ex K-Fed wants child support increase amid star’s Vegas success

After seeing how successful her four-year Las Vegas residency has been, Britney Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline is asking for an increase in child support. >> Read more trending news  Federline’s attorney reportedly sent the pop singer a letter recently indicating that he would like to renegotiate the $20,000...
Mistral declared in West Pam Beach cop impersonation trial
Mistral declared in West Pam Beach cop impersonation trial

A Palm Beach County jury could not reach a verdict Friday in the case of a 21-year-old West Palm Beach man accused of impersonating a police officer two years ago to try to coerce a woman into sex. Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer declared a mistrial in Cristian Leon’s trial after a six-member jury deliberated for nine hours and announced...
More Stories