Love bugs are in the air in May and September across the Southeast, especially in Florida. The least lovable thing about these pests is how they get stuck all over your car. If you leave them there for too long, the enzymes in their bodies can damage your paint job.
Here’s how to remove love bugs from your car before that happens.
How to Clean Love Bugs Off Your Car in 7 Steps
There are no shortcuts to love bug removal if you don’t want to ruin your vehicle’s paint. Before you start, just accept that getting rid of the bug splatter is going to take time and elbow grease — even more so if you didn’t coat your car before love bug season. Follow these steps to cleanse your car of love bugs thoroughly but gently.
And a tip while we’re at it: Don’t try to remove love bugs from your car’s windshield mid-drive with your wipers. All you’ll do is spread around the blood and guts.
Step 1: Don’t Wait Longer Than a Few Days
Fast action is the most important part of removing love bugs successfully. The longer your car sits in the driveway covered in love bug guts, the more the sun will bake them into the paint, and the harder they’ll be to remove.
It might seem like a lot, but you should wash your car every four or five days during love bug season. That goes especially for cars that you drive every day and for places with huge love bug populations (like Florida). Wait any longer than a few days, and you may not be able to remove all the love bug guts without a full detail of your car’s exterior.
Step 2: Rinse the Car With Water
Start by rinsing your car with a pressure washer, if you have one, or a hose-end sprayer, if you don’t. The pressure will likely be enough to knock off a few of the dead bugs on its own.
Step 3: Scrub the Car Gently With a Sponge
Some sources will tell you to go on the attack and scrub the dirtiest parts of your car with a dryer sheet or magic eraser right off the bat, but don’t listen to them. First, you need to wash the car gently with a sponge, soap, and warm water, just as you normally would.
Don’t expect to remove all the love bugs in this step. The point of washing the whole car first is to add lubrication, which makes the bugs easier to remove, and to remove dirt particles. Without this initial car wash, you would rub in the dirt particles when you do your more intense scrubbing, potentially scratching your car’s paint.
Step 4: Rinse the Car Again
When you have finished washing the whole car with soapy water, rinse it off again with your pressure washer or sprayer. After this rinse, most of the bugs and all of the dirt should be gone.
Step 5: Remove Leftover Bugs With a Bug Sponge or Dryer Sheet
While your car is still wet, check for any remaining love bugs. Use a soft microfiber “bug sponge” or “mitten” (such as Griot’s Garage Four-Finger Mesh Mitten) or a wet dryer sheet to thoroughly scrub the spots that are still bugged-up. We don’t recommend using more aggressive scrubbers such as steel wool or a magic eraser, as these may damage your paint.
Note: Dryer sheets don’t scratch, but they tend to leave behind an unattractive residue. You may need to wash your car with soap and water again after scrubbing with a dryer sheet if you want your car to have a squeaky-clean look.
Step 6: Blow Dry the Car
When you have vanquished the last of the dead bugs, blow dry your car with a leaf blower or something similar. If you don’t have the means to blow dry your car, you can dry it gently with a soft microfiber towel or let it air dry before moving on to the last step.
Step 7: Use a Drying Aid and Cloth to Remove Love Bug Stains
Love bugs leave their mark on your car — literally. Even after you wash away the guts and gore, you’ll probably still see small splats, known as love bug stains, trails, or traces. The longer love bugs sit on your car, the more likely they are to leave these trails.
To remove this bug residue, spray it with a drying aid (such as After Wash from Chemical Guys) and wipe it away with a microfiber cloth. If any stains are left after wiping with a drying aid, they’re too deep for you to remove with a simple scrub. They’ll remain there on your car until the next time you polish it (if you’re the kind of person who polishes their car).
How to Prepare Your Car for Love Bug Season
Prevention is a thousand times more effective in the war on love bugs than cleaning after the fact. The bugs will be much easier to remove and less likely to leave deep, lasting stains if you wax your car and apply other prevention methods before love bug season begins around May and then again around September.
Add Coatings of Wax and Sealant
The best thing you can do to protect your car’s clear coat from love bug damage (and other types of damage, for that matter) is to cover the paint with a car wax coating and/or sealant. There are many different products for this on the market, and you can choose to apply just one layer or more for better protection.
Watch this video from the AMMO Training Academy to see how to seal and wax your car. Note: You don’t have to use the same cleaning products used in the video for the coatings to be effective.
Install Bug Screens Inside and Outside the Grille
To keep love bugs from baking onto your radiator and the other innards of your car beneath the hood, install two bug screens, one on the inside of the grille and one on the outside.
Spread Oil on the Side Mirrors and Front of Your Car
You know how you cover a pan with cooking spray before frying eggs so the eggs don’t stick? The same principle applies here. Spread a light coating of baby oil (or another gentle oil that won’t damage the paint) on the most vulnerable parts of your car before going for a drive through love bug country.
Every car is different, but the areas most often affected by love bugs are the grille and front hood of the car, along with the side mirrors. A little oil in these spots can temporarily keep love bugs from sticking or at least make them easier to get off your car.
FAQ About Love Bugs
There’s a common misconception that love bugs are acidic, and that’s why they damage paint, but it’s a myth. The truth is that enzymes or microorganisms inside love bugs eat away at the paint as their bodies decompose. That’s why love bugs and their stains are harder to remove the longer they sit on your car.
Are love bugs harmful? No. Love bugs don’t bite, sting, or otherwise hurt people or animals. Annoying in the extreme? Most definitely.
Each time they pop up–once in spring and once in late summer–love bugs hang around for about four weeks before going back to hell, where they belong.
Love bugs don’t prey on mosquitoes or any other bugs. They eat decomposing plant matter.
More Pest Control Tips
Love bugs are one of many, many pests homeowners in the hot, humid Southeast have to deal with.
For advice on how to get rid of other common pests, see LawnStarter’s guides on:
- How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
- How to Get Rid of Fire Ants
- How to Get Rid of Termites
- How to Get Rid of Cockroaches
- How to Get Rid of Fleas
Or, when you don’t feel like dealing with pests yourself, you can always hire a pest control professional to do it for you.
Main Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0