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Feel like telling them 'get a room'?

We love to hate love bugs, especially when we're lonely.

By AMBER MOBLEY
Published May 31, 2007


They're the couple next door in desperate need of drapery, the eternal newlyweds, the definitive PDAers.

Kind of sweet.

Extremely gratuitous.

Perpetually connected.

Meet The Love Bugs.

Technically termed plecia nearctica, those orange-and-black bugs are known for their immodesty -- mating midair, linked junk-to-junk.

They fly united in every state along the Gulf of Mexico as well as Georgia and South Carolina. They emerge with the urge to merge between March and December, with the largest lovefests happening ... right now.

When this odd copulating couple clings to your clothes, flitters in your face or leaves passion marks across your windshield -- especially when your passenger seat is empty -- it's hard to feel the love.

* * *

You're sitting at a red light, alone in your car, preparing to pick up takeout -- dinner for one again -- when they fly by.

Hovering above the windshield are the hefty hoochie and her lusty little lover in the throes. It's a booty call so vivid that bowchikabowwow is almost audible.

The light turns green. You gun it.

* * *

Love bug courtship is much like your own experience with mating. Cold, brief and impersonal.

After three to nine months of maturation, usually in grassy areas or under dead vegetation, love bugs emerge.

Males come first.

Categorizing themselves by size, as so many males do, they hover waiting for their ladyloves. Just like in high school, the big, burly boys snag the hotties. Closest to the ground, they can zero in on the females of their choice.

Bobbing above the big boys are the average Joes. And higher up, the pipsqueaks.

When the females make their debuts, like dirty debutantes, they fly through the swarm of suitors until a guy grabs them.

They fall to the ground, where the sex starts. No time for Barry White. A love bug lifetime is, at most, seven days. The patient guy risks dying alone and a virgin.

The lucky in love spend about three days together gorging on nectar and pollen, gleefully snorting tailpipe exhaust, flaunting their marathon lust on the breezes.

Lacking the decency to get a room, these two are intimate the entire time. Eat, copulate, repeat.

* * *

You're walking along, alone of course, when here they come again.

They're still at it.

They gently brush your hand, then your cheek, and then land near the nape of your neck.

Swat! Swat! Die, love bugs, die!

* * *

Love bugs fancy a variety of fumes, a fatal attraction that usually ends with bug lust strewn across cars, or with the pair embedded Pompeii-style in wet paint.

When they separate, the male dies, so he can't date her best friend. The widow lays as many as 600 eggs -- future pits in your paint job. Then, she dies, too.

After putting their lovin' out there for the world to see, they essentially die alone.

You've got to love that.

Amber Mobley can be reached at (813) 269-5311 or amobley@sptimes.com Sources for this story are the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web site and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences report.

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Encounters is dedicated to small but meaningful stories. Sometimes they will play out far from the tumult of the daily news; sometimes they may be part of the news. To comment or suggest an idea for a story, contact editor Mike Wilson at mike@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2924.