News Item: To bikers, bugs show extra love
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by MJF
Monday 05 June 2006 - 12:51:21

St.Petersburg Times
To bikers, bugs show extra love
This time of year, motorcyclists know better than anybody the sting - and nasty flavor - of smashing through love bugs.
Published June 5, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - If you think love bugs are a menace to your car, try riding a motorcycle. Without a windshield. Without a helmet.
That's what "Malicious" Mike Clements was doing the other day as he roared through Land O'Lakes on his purple Harley-Davidson. Somewhere along U.S. 41, the president of Hernando's Warlocks Motorcycle Club ran into a cloud of love bugs and was blinded by their guts smashing against his glasses.

"I'd like to find whoever invented these bugs and beat him to death," Clements said. "They serve no purpose in nature."

Nothing keeps him from riding - not hurricanes, not lightning and certainly not copulating insects - but Clements finds these critters, which stick to car windshields, biker helmets and human flesh, to be a real pain in the ... face.

He is not alone.

It's love bug season again and in this four-wheel world that's time for car drivers to complain about the mess on their vehicles and the damage to their paint jobs.

But bikers have it much worse and they're not shy about sharing that.

The mere mention of love bugs, or Plecia nearctica, gets them talking about what the little flies feel like tiny needles, what they taste like (petroleum products) and how to wash them off your hog (wipe with Bounce dryer sheets, then apply water).

"They're awful; they're totally awful," said Stephen Smith of Spring Hill, who just bought a new Kawasaki ZZR sport bike that tops out around 190 mph. "When you see them splatter on your windshield, imagine that in your eyes. It's a nightmare. I hate this time of year."

"You spend the whole day polishing that bike. When you roll down the road and you start hitting love bugs, you start to panic," said Joe Ferrara, who retired to Spring Hill from Brooklyn, N.Y., and has never seen anything as bad. "Love bugs really flipped me out. And the no-see-ums, they're like hitting hypodermic needles."

Dry weather this spring has meant fewer love bugs, but they still are a serious irritant to bikers. The bugs are causing problems throughout the North Suncoast and down into Hillsborough County.

"A lot of guys that ride in here, they'll be covered with splatter marks on their vests," said Marc Leroux, a salesman at Trik Daddy's Custom Cycles in Spring Hill. It's his job to make motorcycles look cool, and these bugs don't help. "They've gotten a lot worse in the last couple of weeks," he added.

Ed Garlin, the service manager at the Kawasaki dealership in Brooksville, has found that the bugs are affecting the way some people use their new rides: "Most of the guys that have bought bikes recently are not riding them because of the bugs," he said. "They'll start riding them at the end of the month when the bugs go away."

The love bug problem is not limited to Florida. It stretches across the Gulf Coast states, affecting roadways about this time each year and then again in September.

The insects are called love bugs because they are seen fused together in the act of procreation. They lay eggs in the grasses along the road. The offspring will emerge as flies this fall.

Biker Web sites offer tips on how to clean love bugs off motorcycle chrome. These sites warn that it's only a matter of hours before the acidic innards of the bugs start eating away at the finish.

But entomologist James Nation never believed these claims. A professor emeritus at the University of Florida, he ground up a few bugs and tested their pH.

"It's not true that love bugs contain enough acid to etch the paint on the car. It's the bacterial activity on the bugs' carcasses that does it," Nation said. "They're no more acidic than other bugs you smash."

There are lots of misconceptions about love bugs, he said, chief of which is the story that they were created in a university laboratory for mosquito control.

Clements - and others who hate love bugs - blame scientists for releasing the love bug scourge on helpless motorists.

"It's a complete myth that researchers at the University of Florida were doing experiments with those things and released them," Nation said. He insists that the bugs migrated to Florida naturally, if inexplicably, about 20 years ago.

But just because they moved to Florida naturally doesn't make them any less annoying.

Biker Scott Eccard had to wear a full-faced helmet to keep the love bugs away.

"You hear them like a little tapping, that's it. By the end of a long ride, your visor's covered," he said. "But it's never stopped me."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel© or (352) 754-6114

This news item is from White Trash Networks
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