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Naples Daily News

NAPLES - Love bug season in southwest Florida is a stubborn, sticky time for drivers who have to scrape insect debris off the front of the car to avoid paint damage.

But try getting them out of your beard.

"When I go through a cloud, you don't want to hug me," said Dean Lindquist, a local motorcycle rider known as the Mayor for the resemblance his stature and facial hair bear to the The Wizard of Oz character.

In between the patches on the front of his black leather vest and around his matching angle-heeled boots are the telltale flecks of gray he couldn't remove after recent rides.

Bugs in your whiskers and on your clothes may be one price to pay for choosing two wheels over four during the biannual love bug seasons, in April-May and August-September, but seasoned riders know there is more to it.

Smart riding right now means motorcycle riders have to pull over regularly during daytime runs to clean off their goggles and, for the more protected, the small windshields on their bikes. Swarming, during which the adults emerge and partner up, occurs primarily from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Since the peak time for love bugs to be out is during daylight, night riders will have an easier time avoiding them.

"Your destination can't get in the way so that you don't pull over when you should," said Alan Harris, a sales associate at Naples Harley-Davidson.

"Twenty minutes of hard riding will fill it up pretty fast," he estimates after a drive to Lake Okeechobee that required constant stops to clean off bug splatter that impaired visibility.

The flight of these small flies lasts about five weeks in spring and fall, and they concentrate around areas with more decaying organic matter like preserves and farms. University of Florida entomologists describe them as a "nuisance pest," rather than destructive or dangerous.

They become all the more bothersome without a thick windshield or windows to roll up. "The thing about it you don't notice in a car - they smell," added Randy Bryant, a Naples motorcycle rider. "They don't taste good either," he said.

Despite their plague-like cult status in Florida, research into love bugs isn't a priority for scientists since the only economic loss comes from individuals paying for car washes and paint jobs.

Spattered love bugs left on a car and exposed to sunlight will turn acidic in 24 hours, which can damage paint. The cheapest, though most labor-intensive, solution is rinsing off bug debris within 24 hours to help neutralize the acid.