On Tuesday morning, April 16th, we left Riverbend. It seemed like it might be a good travel day but within 5 minutes of leaving, traveling along US-80 towards Lake Okeechobee, it started…
Splat, splat…..splat…..splat, splat, splat…..splat, splat….splat…splat..splat! Were we in the midst of a torrential downpour? Nope! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky! Was it some vehicle in front of us kicking up pebbles or something from the road? Nope! Instead it was the not so lovable love bugs (aka honeymoon bugs) hitting our coach head on at a fast and furious rate!
Amazing how quickly it became a driving hazard! We both were having a difficult time seeing through the windshield but obviously it was much tougher on Rob since he was driving. Although not an issue on our rear engine rig, these bugs can also cause overheating of motors when large numbers of them are drawn through the front grill into the radiator, clogging the fins and possibly causing the engine to overheat.
After about 45 minutes we could barely see and had to stop and clean them off. Pulling into a rest stop, Rob filled a bucket with hot water and spent about 45 minutes washing the entire windshield. Sure was nice to be able to see again but we wondered how long it would be before it would be covered again. Luckily, the splats began to subside as we progressed further north.
During all the years we have been wintering in the south, we had heard about the swarms of these creatures and had only seen a few of them flying around but didn’t know much about them and certainly had never experienced suicidal swarms of them before. Guess we were lucky to have missed them until now, little did we know how happy we were in our ignorance!
To amuse myself, I attempted to count the number of bugs splattered on the window, after all don’t we all love statistics! But that was pretty impossible, I kept losing count as the kamikaze bug splats were happening too fast for me to keep up. Plus I couldn’t decide if one body is equal to just one bug or should one bug be counted as two since the male is attached to the female. What an exasperating dilemma!
Giving up on the counting, I reverted back to reading billboards, speed limit signs, playing games on my phone and nodding drowsily at the monotonous scenery on the highway. After a while, to learn more about love bugs, I decided to do the next best thing. Hey, Google! Tell me all about these pesky creatures! Are they dangerous? When and why do these swarms appear? Why are they flying around attached to each other? And why does it seem that they congregate along highways? Do they have relatives in the car wash industry?
According to love bug etymologists (who knew there was such a thing), they are innocuous – they don’t bite, they don’t sting and they don’t cause any harm to pets. Instead they thrive in warm, humid climates, are found in thickets and forests and under cow manure in cow pastures and are much like maggots (eewww!) as they are attracted to decomposing plant debris.
But why are they found near the highways? Experts believe that the bugs are attracted to the heat signature from black top roads, car exhaust fumes, engines and also the vibrations of vehicles. A truly deadly combination for a living thing so small and delicate.
Twice a year, in April/May and August/September, love permeates the air for these little insects beckoning the males and the females to meet for a romantic tryst. The male love bug attaches to the female at the abdomen and stays connected during flight, to prevent another male from coming in and fertilizing the female as well. Hmmm, guess this is a case where the male gets to have a free ride, eh! Believe it or not, their mating process takes up to 12 hours. The joy is short lived, however, the male dies after mating (or perhaps purposely smashes himself against cars and trucks because he’s just too worn out for the love session to continue). Then the female totes the attached cadaver of her good-for-nothing dead spouse (how gruesome is that!) until she detaches from him and lays between 100 and 350 eggs. Then sadly the female dies.
What a shock I had when we arrived at our destination, 4 Lakes Campground in Hastings, FL.
OMG, what a total mess our coach was! The remains of the black buggers covered almost every inch of the front of our coach. Gross! Disgusting! Yucky! Sure, every creature on earth has its purpose but after seeing the carnage they had created on our coach, it was difficult to feel sympathetic about their demise. Makes one wonder with the high volume of traffic on the highways in the south, how many of these bugs get killed in a day? And what does a motorcyclist look like at the end of a day? How many bugs do they end up swallowing!
Here it was nearly 5:00 p.m. when we arrived and after a long day of driving (nearly 300 miles), the last thing either of us wanted to do was to scrape off the body parts of insects. We knew that nothing can ruin a paint job more quickly than the acidic fatty tissue from the bodies of these bugs baked in the sun so cleaning them off quickly (within 24 hours) is paramount. Being just a one night stop over, there would be no time to take care of it in the morning so it had to be done that evening. Armed with a bucket of warm water and sponges, Rob perched on our step ladder tackling the upper sections while yours truly took care of the lower sections of the windshield and front of the coach. Wet down a section, allow it to soak, then scrub, scrub, and scrub, wet it again, scrub, scrub, scrub and scrub some more. Jeesh, who would have thought that washing bugs off would be such hard work and so difficult! But finally after a few hours, no more bug bodies, the coach was recognizable and started to look pretty again.
Oh, joy! The next day as we continued our journey northward, not one love bug (or since they are attached to each other, should it be two?) hit the windshield. Guess we had progressed far enough north and conditions had not yet become ideal for the romantic love life of the love bug!
Our love bugless journey northward continues….