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Struck by the Love Bug

We all know someone who’s been struck by the love bug. Someone shamelessly happy and in love with another special someone. I’ve always smiled with warm, fuzzy feelings when I heard the words love bug. But after a brief encounter with a flying insect, just hearing love bug makes me duck my head and frown.

            As Husband and I drove home from a Gulf beach, we stopped at an Alabama rest stop. You know the routine of a road trip stop. Park away from the buildings so you have to walk more than a few steps. After visiting the bathrooms, take the long way around to your car and stretch your body before settling for the next two hours of driving. Toe raises. Calf stretches. Hands and arms above your head. Shoulder shrugs. And finally, back in your car.

But I wish Husband had parked next to the rest stop building that day. Before we opened the car door, I saw a man walking and wondered why he was waving both arms in front of his face. I stepped on the sidewalk and flying black insects flew inches from my face. I slapped at them, waving my arms, too.

Close to a garbage barrel, these pests swarmed. Husband and I walked quickly making a wide circle past the barrel, and I ducked to avoid flies from hitting my face. I wondered what they were and if they would light on me. Would they sting or bite?

I stood inside the rest stop building and dreaded going back outside to face the half-inch long insects. “Those are love bugs,” an Alabama resident told me. “No, they won’t sting or bite. But they are annoying.”

“Love bugs?” I said. “That’s a strange name.”   Mr. Alabama smiled and nodded and went on his way.

I later learned from the University of Florida Extension website, that these slow-moving insects are called love bugs because they often attach to their mates. They are harmless, but very annoying, to humans. They originated from Central America, and made their way to Texas, Louisiana, Florida and further north.

Love bugs are attracted to decomposing plant debris, but may confuse these odors with chemicals in exhaust fumes. They are most active when the temperature is above 84º F between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and their peak mating times are four weeks in May and September. So if Husband and I had set out to see love bugs mating, we’d picked the perfect place and time.

We ducked our chins and speed-walked toward our car. The front of our white car was spotted black with dead love bugs and live love bugs lined the perimeter of the car windows. We jerked the car doors open and got inside as fast as possible. The windshield was splattered with love bug guts. What a mess!

I like learning and new experiences, but I wish I’d never met black, flying, annoying love bugs. Struck by the love bug now has a whole new meaning.

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