A few years ago I finally had the chance to encounter, firsthand, one of the world’s strangest insects.
I got up close and personal with love bugs.
These small black flies with orange heads are native to Middle America and the American Gulf Coast. They experience a bizarre life cycle. They thrive as larvae in the soil for the vast majority of their existence, only to morph into airborne entities whose numbers radically explode during two brief mating seasons – one in the spring and one in the fall.
I happened to visit Louisiana during a fall outbreak.
“Are those real love bugs?” I excitedly asked my hostess as I walked with her outside the Baton Rouge airport. “Oh, yes, they’re real,” she said with a sigh.
“Will I get to see more?” I asked, the hope rising in my voice.
“You can be sure of that,” she answered, exhibiting about as much enthusiasm as Pharaoh would have mustered for an eleventh plague.
Love bugs are named for the fact that they almost always fly in pairs. A male bug and a female bug link up and zip around like little black-and-orange bi-planes. When their amorous acrobatics and egg-laying are completed, they expire. Thousands of them typically end up in heaps on the ground.
A Louisiana radio station was running a promotion while I was visiting: Whoever brought in the most gallons of dead love bugs won a pair of concert tickets.
According to urban legend, love bugs are the result of a bioengineering catastrophe at the University of Florida. Florida scientists were trying to conjure up an anti-mosquito organism. Instead, their Frankenstein bug somehow escaped into the wild. Philip Koehler, a professor in the university’s entomology department, has pointed out that this story is obviously contrived. “If we had created them, they would be orange and blue.”
Actually, if they were genetically engineered by anyone, it would probably be a car wash company.
Love bugs tend to swarm. Ominous clouds of them shroud the landscape, oblivious to approaching traffic. Driving through a love bug infestation is a bit like driving through falling rain.
In sufficient numbers they can cause radiators to overheat. The goop they leave behind on car panels is mildly acidic. Drivers who live in love bug zones typically have to wash their cars every few days or risk paint corrosion.
Safely back home again in Indiana, it occurred to me that nobody loves a love bug. Except, of course, another love bug.
Which brings us to a sadly familiar part of human experience. We find it easy to love those who are just like us. Others are not so lucky.
We have a litany of reasons for withholding our love:
Because you snubbed me
Because you embarrassed me in front of our friends
Because your background is so different from mine
Because your success makes my life seem pathetic
Because you’re planning to vote for such a dreadful candidate
Because I don’t agree with what you think about God
Life is short.
Don’t waste it wallowing in lovelessness.
What does the Bible say about loving other people? Jesus declared, “This is my commandment: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). As I have loved you – unconditionally and sacrificially – means the bar has been set higher than we could possibly imagine.
But that’s OK. Jesus promises to help us. If we’re willing to receive it, he will put all the love we will ever need into our hearts.
Ask God for a generous portion of that love right now.
And by all means think twice about driving your new car in Louisiana this fall.