Love Bugs at Disney World
It’s May once more, which means lovebug season has ‘officially’ returned to Walt Disney World. This post rants a bit about these insects, shares info & tips for avoiding love and other bugs during their peak months in Florida, and more. (Updated May 15, 2023.)
Known as the month of merriment and renewal, May is when poets write of lovers, subject to the same force which reawakens the plants, feel their hearts open again. Named after Maia, the goddess of springtime and growth, May is a gentle and warm month that causes flowers to blossom, crops to sprout, and people to dance.
That is, unless you’re in Florida. Sure, love is in the air, but it’s in bug form. The state also has 20 million genetically modified mosquitoes that were released last year in the Florida Keys, as part of a landmark project during which researchers learned absolutely nothing from this highly-scientific Simpsons clip. This is to say nothing of invasive species, which are exploding in the state per a very amusing/scary “dispatch from Florida” in National Geographic.
Cutting to the chase, are you wondering why little pests are all around Walt Disney World? (No, we’re not talking about small children–sorry for the confusion.) These are swarms of flying insects known as lovebugs, and they appear twice per year in Central Florida. Lovebug season usually occurs in May and September, although the actual “intensity” of the season varies dramatically based on weather conditions. Some years, lovebug season is awful; other years, it’s nonexistent.
Dr. Norman Leppla, a professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida explains that lovebugs require a “Goldilocks” environment to thrive. Not too wet, not too dry–just right. Essentially, average rainfall occurring relatively consistently during the winter.
Lovebug larvae live in decaying vegetation at the soil surface. If the habitat is too wet, they drown. If the environment is too dry, the larvae dries up. Last year, the Orlando area had over 7 inches less rainfall than average by the start of lovebug season. This included several stretches of uninterrupted dry weather, which effectively dried up the lovebug larvae.
The 2023 lovebug season shouldn’t be that bad in Central Florida, as Orlando only saw 5.81 inches of precipitation over the first 4 months of the year. That’s a sharp contrast to last year, when the City Beautiful saw approximately 12 inches of rain over that same timeframe.
Last year was 3 inches above normal, which resulted in the worst year for lovebugs since 2019. This year is about 3 inches below average, which means another relatively quiet year on the lovebug front. To that point, lovebugs flew under the radar in 2020-2021, but were worse in 2019 and 2022.
In fact, 2019 was the worst lovebug season we’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World (and we’ve visited or resided in Central Florida during this ‘season’ every year for the last decade-plus). The first day driving during lovebug season that year, we thought a light rain had started. Turns out it was just a ‘bug drizzle’ hitting the windshield. Fortunately, 2023 shouldn’t be nearly that bad!
Like Pop Warner and Jersey Week, love bug seasons are seemingly unexplainable natural phenomenons that’s spoken of in hushed whispers among Walt Disney World fans. No one likes the annual infestations, but we don’t want to anger our new insect overlords that the ‘it’s tough to be a bug’ documentary at Animal Kingdom warned us about.
The awful 2019 lovebug season is actually what originally inspired this post. In Epcot, love bugs were swarming everywhere, but a harmless irritant. That is, until a pair flew at my mouth while I was eating poutine fries. No person or pest gets between me and my poutine. Enough is enough. No more whispering–it’s time for a proverbial yell.
Kidding aside, there are a lot of myths about lovebugs. Despite having ample experience with the insects over the years, the entirety of my knowledge prior to researching them out of curiosity (which in turn led to this blog post) consisted of people on social media asking, “what’s up with all of the bugs at Walt Disney World right now?!” and locals giving their answers.
My favorite of the lovebug myths is that they are the result of a genetic experiment gone wrong at the University of Florida, which has gained so much traction that it has a Snopes page. While that’s a great urban legend and should absolutely be used by Capcom for the next Resident Evil plot, it’s false.
According to the University of Florida’s own site, the school did not introduce the love bug to the state. Of course the University of Florida would want to throw us off the scent and deny being the cause. However, [joke redacted because I have no dog in the South’s college rivalry fight, and also the good sense not to bring the wrath ~25% of Floridians down upon me].
In actuality, lovebugs migrated from Central America, traveling through Texas and Louisiana before arriving in Florida in the twentieth century. The bugs were seen in Louisiana as early as 1911, and common in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in the 1940s. By the end of the 20th century, lovebugs had spread heavily to all areas bordering the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Georgia and South Carolina.
The lovebug (Plecia nearctica) is also known as the honeymoon fly or double-headed bug. The name is derived from (kids, skip this paragraph) their affinity for public fornication. May and September are their mating periods, during which time they are joined in flight. Even after mating has ended, adult pairs remain coupled–even in flight–for several days.
Lovebugs have two mating periods, one in the spring and one in the fall. Each of these last for about four weeks, with May and September being peak lovebug season. These insects are usually most active between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., in temperatures above 84°F.
In terms of debunking some other myths, lovebugs are not drawn to any particular colors or scents at Walt Disney World or on tourists. They are attracted to decomposing plant debris, but may confuse these odors with chemicals in exhaust fumes. Heat also attracts lovebugs.
These two reasons in tandem are why lovebugs are especially common on roadways around Walt Disney World, and why your car will look like it just plowed straight through the Battle of Winterfell after only a few miles. They are a ‘neutral’ insect, but bacteria increases their acidity meaning they can damage automobile paint if they are “baked” in the sun over the course of days.
If you’re driving to and around Walt Disney World in your own vehicle, it’s recommended that you get a car wash or put an extra layer of wax on as a protective layer before leaving home. (There are three Speedway gas stations around Walt Disney World property.) As for clean-up, one of the most popular hacks is to use a wet dryer sheet to swab off the bugs.
As for humans, lovebugs are mainly a nuisance. Lovebugs are not poisonous, and they do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases. In terms of avoiding lovebugs, there aren’t really any great hacks for that. Chemical pesticides and sprays are ineffective on lovebugs.
The little pairs are ubiquitous this time of year. Having two banging bugs fly into your open mouth may not be your ideal vacation experience…but it’s probably even worse for them, so there’s that silver lining, I suppose. Suffice to say, lovebugs are incredibly frustrating.
Love bugs don’t pose any risk to humans whatsoever (and couldn’t bite even if they wanted to), but they’re incredibly annoying. They are literally everywhere right now, and while most of what’s written above is in jest, you can’t walk around Walt Disney World for long right now without them flying into you or you running into them.
It’s worth noting that for centuries, Florida was viewed as uninhabitable and inhospitable for humans. That’s no joke (for a slightly amusing read, check out “A Requiem for Florida, the Paradise That Should Never Have Been“). While water management and the miracle of air-conditioning have made aspects of Florida more tolerable, Mother Nature cannot be tamed.
Bugs and severe weather remain an issue in Florida for much of the year. While lovebugs are all the rage right now, other insects can be problematic later in the summer. I’ve personally never had much of an issue with mosquitos, and find Walt Disney World’s mosquito monitoring and prevention program to be pretty effective.
Sarah, on the other hand, is like ‘bugnip’ to insects. She now swears by Buzz Away, which is a natural and DEET-free insect repellant. Before that, she found these Zekpro Bug Repeller Bracelets effective; at Walt Disney World you’re already wearing at least one bracelet, and adding too many starts to approach hippie territory.
As the official start of Atlantic hurricane season approaches in only a few months, we’d also refer you to our Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World During Storm Season. There have already been a couple of intense afternoon showers of late, and that’s only going to become more frequent as we approach summer.
Ultimately, I realize this wasn’t the most helpful or informative article, especially since the only thing for combating lovebugs while in the parks is “you can’t really do anything.” Nevertheless, hopefully you found my venting interesting or useful. Or, maybe you’ve also had lovebugs pester you all day or fly into your mouth while eating poutine, in which case, we can commiserate with one another’s pain and frustration!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you ever experienced the annual love bug plague at Walt Disney World? Have any ranting of your own to do about them? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Think they’ll be an issue that last week of May? That’s when we’re coming! We were there in May 2019 for the giant invasion – not looking for a repeat!!
IIRC, it had already peaked and gotten better by the end of the month. In any case, the weather was not “perfect” enough this winter for a lovebug situation as bad as 2019.
LOL we moved into our house last September, and thought they were just something around here we never noticed. We didn’t know they come out for May, and return for September.
Yes these are annoying little creature the worst thing I discovered was the damage that they can do to ones paint on your car, I’ve spent doubled the amount for washes and find that I drive much slower so not to create too much impact smearing. We actually forgot about them and we are just starting a vacation, oh well I guess it could be worse, cows could fly !
I will forever remember one week in September 2019 as the worst love bug spree I’ve ever seen. Couldn’t go anywhere without seeing them crawling over everything.
Supposedly in the mid-70s there was a couple of seasons where love bugs were so bad that you couldn’t drive on the highway more than a few miles before you began to lose visibility from all of the bug carcasses on your windshield. Peppy youngsters set up stations along the Turnpike where you could pull over and pay these kids to wipe you off so you could keep driving. It got so bad the state promised to look into strategies for love bug mitigation. Back then the state was seemingly devoted to solving problems rather than causing them, imagine that!
Are love bugs an issue in October or mostly just September?
Bear with me while I tell my story. Way back in the mid 1960’s, my husband and I honeymooned in Florida, Miami to be exact. We attended many events similar to timeshare (there was no timeshare yet) and given numerous gifts to entice us to purchase property, which we deemed to be swampland. And it was swampland. Filled with insects and mosquitoes galore. The property was undeveloped and relatively inexpensive. Could have purchased property in what is now Naples, but there were no regulations then, so I was wary. In one instance, we were to fly to the west coast to see property (swamp) but when we awoke that day, a storm was upon us, so we didn’t go. The small plane crashed. There were no survivors.
This story leads me to why we didn’t purchase property. Aside from the obvious (we didn’t trust the sellers), I hated all the bugs. I hate any bugs, but there was an overabundance of a variety of them in Florida. Especially on our cruise through the Everglades.
As for the Love Bugs, I have found a mixture of a good dish detergent and water in a spray bottle worked for us. Somewhat. We sprayed the chairs at the pool. It sounds stupid but it worked. Somewhat. Unless they mutated into a stronger version of Love Bug, it still might work. Never had a problem in the parks.
I started getting them about a week ago but today Sept 1 2021 they are terrible. My front porch is full of them. I go out there with my bug spray and kill them. I hate them they and get worse every year.Goid for the environment or not I get rid of as many as I can. I less pregnancy gone.
This month , May 2021, there are virtually no lovebugs. Perhaps the boom in building projects over the year has reduced plant fungus amounts. Or the cool dry spring? Who knows.
We’re going to Disney World next week. How bad should I expect it? My wife and kids easily FREAKOUT about bugs. I’m scared to mention this to my wife cause she’ll straight up cancel our trip and refuse to go. Losing thousands of dollars is nothing compared to dealing with swarms of bugs like it’s the apocolypse. A few here and there are fine but not if they’re everywhere attack people, buildings, and cars.
They have not been that bad this year so far. They also were not that bad last year.
Two years ago, they were really bad–I had never seen so many in any prior year. Even then, they were a harmless annoyance–not attacking anyone or anything. I definitely would not cancel because of the love bugs.
My daughter and I were there 2 years ago in May and I can say it was AWFUL!! They were everywhere!! I would have to wipe them all from our hotel door at Pop Century before I could even walk in. Having a 5 year old who was terrified of bugs made it that much worse. They were landing all over us as we were walking or waiting in line. I will NEVER go back in May again.
We will be going to WDW in mid June. Having two todders and a double stroller I will now be buying a netting to go over the stroller. One question is….. will all of these bugs be gone by mid June? I am beginning to think that wearing a face mask is a very good thing.
Would you recommend avoiding May and September to avoid the bugs? We had narrowed dates for 2022 down to either first two weeks of May or the last two weeks of September but after reading this I’m not sure.
They’re almost never an issue in the fall. I would not avoid September at all.
I had forgotten all about those bugs! Scratch May and September off the list to visit FL.
I can only answer “Mommy, what are they doing?” so many times.
“at Walt Disney World you’re already wearing at least one bracelet, and adding too many starts to approach hippie territory.”
Magic Band and at least 2 or 3 Alex and Ani bracelets on one wrist; watch and bug band on the other. I may be a hippie at heart.
I experienced something worse when I was a kid. On one trip thru TX we passed through the remnants of a grasshopper swarm. If this happens to you you’ll know why it was one of the Biblical plagues. I was going to go into detail but remembering it was grossing even me out.
Have they started this year yet? I can’t tell from this “updated” post. I hope they are mostly gone by the 17th!
We were at WDW for our honeymoon two May’s ago and the love bugs were AWFUL. I had envisioned relaxing pool time and leisurely strolls through the parks…needless to say, the bugs ruined any semblance of relaxation outdoors that vacation. So much so that I vowed never to go in May again. Well, best laid plans and all, we’re heading back in two weeks, almost the same weekend we were there for our honeymoon and crossing all extremities that we might miss the height of this year’s season.
“Having two banging bugs fly into your open mouth may not be your ideal vacation experience…but it’s probably even worse for them, so there’s that silver lining, I suppose.”
Being a horticulturist, I can believe the sugarcane in Louisiana story, although I have never actually researched it. History is full of tales like this where a natural predator was introduced with good intentions, only to find later that the result may have been the greater of two evils. Insult to injury is added when the introduced pest never has the desired result (:
I worked on the island of St. Kitts for several years where they have a horrendous monkey problem (although they are adorable and fascinating to watch). Many years ago some genius decided the introduction of the Mongoose to the ecosystem was the answer to managing the population. However someone didn’t stop to consider that the Mongoose is nocturnal and the Monkey is not. Now they two huge problems! But I digress. Interesting article on the love bugs. I for one have never been overly bothered by any insect that can’t hurt me or send me to the hospital, or cause days of discomfort later (i.e. mosquitoes), to me it’s a state of mind to be largely ignored, but I too have a wife that can’t do that, and that is another issue, haha. I actually miss insects in the winter (certain ones), but my theory has always been that I love hot weather so much, and hate cold weather so much, that insects, albeit sometimes annoying, are a clear sign that it is my time of year, so I just look the other way and I’m happy.
Love reading all your articles but the tone of this one makes me think you are going quarantine crazy! But i laughed all the way through it. You are the best! Keep them coming! And hang in there!!!
Growing up in southern Louisiana I’ve dealt with love bugs my whole life. I once asked an exterminator about the origin of love bugs and was told they were brought here from South America to Louisiana for the purpose of feeding on a fungus that grew on sugarcane.