Lovebugs, those pesky poor fliers are a nuisance but thankfully they are short-lived.
Ginny Beagan, TCPALM
“Love” isn’t the word that comes to mind for irritated drivers when they bring their bug-covered vehicles to the car wash.
”It’s the worst I’ve seen in 20 years here” Ken Skizas said of the stream of love bug-splattered cars pulling into his family-owned business, Calypso Car Wash on Golden Gate Parkway. “It’s been really, really, very bad.”
Skizas and proprietors of other cash wash enterprises in Naples reported Friday that business is up about 20% compared to “non love-bug” season.
The problem is particularly severe for cars driving on Interstate 75, traveling across the Everglades on U.S. 41 to Miami and anyone traveling through Central Florida. The Gulf coast, from Florida to Texas, is the primary United States habitat for love bugs, which are known to the scientific world as Plecia nearctica.
“People are coming in from Orlando, Tampa, Miami,” said Alexander Lambo, store manager at Auto Spa on U.S. 41. “They’re everywhere.”
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Bonnie Marin and her husband drove south to Naples from Springhill on I-75, and their red Dodge Journey was so covered with love bugs that they stopped at Auto Spa Friday for a thorough purging.
“You can’t see out of the windshield,” she said. “The bugs go dit-dit-dit-dit.”
She said she and her husband couldn’t find windshield scrubbers at stores or even service stations to wipe off the bugs. “People take the scrubbers from gas stations,” she said. The inventory at stores, she added, seems to be sold out.
For the past three weeks, drivers have been steadily pulling into another Auto Spa franchise, this one on Pine Ridge Road.
“They say, ‘I just want my love bugs removed,’” said Alex Rivera, manager of the Pine Ridge car wash. “Business has increased a lot. It’s not slowing down.”
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Some cars, he said, are pitch black, with the dead bugs smeared all over the windshield.
Rivera said he heard that Naples has become “the boom town” for love bugs. “So we’ve seen a lot of new customers coming in, saying, ‘I want to get my car cleaned.’”
“Since last week, they’ve just been coming, one car after another, just spattered on the front,” said Chad Merrifield, supervisor at Luv-A-Wash on Pine Ridge Road.
At night, the love bugs are attracted to a car’s lights. That seems to be especially true on highways.
Love bugs lay their eggs in rotting vegetation and cow manure, said Skizas, which give off carbon monoxide fumes — the same type of fumes that vehicles emit.
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“And that’s what they’re looking for,” he explained of the love bugs. “That’s why you find them around highways and swamps.”
Skizas said no one chemical can do the trick, so ridding cars of the love bug detritus entails “lots of elbow grease” by car wash employees.
The Auto Spa car washes offer special love bug cleanings for an extra charge of about $10. Car wash owners and managers recommend having the love bugs removed as quickly as possible, lest they become permanently embedded by the sun in the vehicle’s surface.
Paul Rokela, a customer at Luv-A-Wash on Friday, was vacuuming his car after having it washed.
His car’s grill and windshield were covered with love bugs after he drove on the highway. “I’m thankful I have a car wash,” he said.
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