Airdate: Jul 12, 2019
Scientist: Mark Hostetler
Lovebugs Meet Their Nemesis
Yet another reason to have electric cars!
WINDSHIELD INSECTS - Lovebugsambience: cars, crickets Here's a program from our archives.If you've taken any car rides in the southeastern United States over the last couple of months, you're probably familiar with love bugs--- those hordes of flying insects that seem to dive into your windshield as if following some suicide pact, invariably leaving a splat of white gunk. But why do these lovebugs seem to be having a love affair with our windshields? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Mark Hostetler is an urban ecologist at Arizona State University.Hostetler: In the southeast there's an insect called the lovebug. And it flies about and it's actually attracted to highways. And people think 'what a stupid insect!' Here is is, flying about and it get's smashed on the highways. And then biologists think, 'well there's got to be a reason for this' and the reason is: the female is looking for a place to lay her eggs and it so happens that she lays them in decaying organic matter-- rotting leaves, twigs, grass clippings, etcetera. And the volatile chemicals that come off decaying organic matter happen to mimic automobile exhaust that's irradiated with sunlight. So you can imagine these female lovebugs, looking for a place to lay their eggs and they detect this what they think is decaying organic matter, but it's actually automobile exhaust, so they fly down and splat and they get hit by an automobile.And how can you recognize the remains of this misguided lovebug? Well, Mark Hostetler specializes in identifying the distinctive windshield splat of different species of insects.Hostetler: A lovebug splat is very characteristic. But typically, they tend to be clear, with small lumps in it. And these lumps are actually eggs from the females. And the splat is sprayed upward about a half inch or so. And when the splat itself dries, it gets a creamy or yellowish color. We've been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.