The University of Florida has given the world plenty of things — Tim Tebow, Dara Torres, Gatorade and the Gator chomp, for starters.
But, contrary to urban legend, UF did NOT give the world the annoying flying insects known as lovebugs.
These bugs, members of the march fly family, go by the scientific name Plecia nearctica. They’re native to Central America.
No one’s sure exactly when or how they arrived in the United States but they were reported in Texas as early as 1940 and spread east over the next couple of decades.
In Florida, the adults typically swarm twice a year, in April or May and September or October. For reasons unknown, they’re attracted to light-colored surfaces and also roadsides.
Therein lies the problem — though lovebugs don’t bite or sting, their tendency to hover over roadways has made them a formidable nuisance to motorists, capable of clogging car radiators and fouling windshields.
Also, when dead lovebugs are left spattered across a car’s front end, their body fluids gradually become more acidic and eventually the critters will pit the car’s paint if they aren’t cleaned up.
Believe it or not, scientists say Florida lovebug populations appear to be declining, partly because natural enemies such as fungi have followed the bugs and are taking a toll.
That’s a relief.
One Bug Week staffer recalls highway trips in the 1960s when clouds of lovebugs literally blackened the skies.
And if you’re still suspicious that UF somehow developed lovebugs, the rumor-busting website site Snopes.com might convince you otherwise.