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Answer Man

A Lovebug Story

Courtesy of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Q: Why are lovebugs constantly mating? Does it really take that long to do the deed?

A: When we see lovebugs in flight, they are not mating—they have long since done that in private amid vegetation. Rather, they are searching for a place for the female to lay her eggs, says Norm Leppla, professor of entomology at the University of Florida. They remain joined so that the male can assist in the flight. Plus, the male is “guarding his paternity,’’ says Leppla, so that other guys don’t try to hook up with his significant other.

Once the couple land, they separate. The female lays her eggs and dies shortly after. The male may go in search of another mate if he has the energy. All this is assuming, of course, that the pair doesn’t meet up with your windshield or radiator first.

Q: What’s being done to battle germy shopping carts?

A: The ick factor at your local grocer drew some attention a few months ago after a University of Arizona study found that three-quarters of shopping carts swabbed by researchers tested positive for fecal matter. Of course, the report was sponsored by Clorox, which happens to make disinfectant wipes. And numerous studies have found that everything from keyboards to makeup are dirtier than toilet seats.

Nevertheless, germs are a concern if your hands are on that cart or your toddler is sitting in it (never mind that he or she may be one source of the bad stuff). Winn-Dixie has taken up the fight by hiring a company to give all its carts and baskets a twice-a-year treatment that involves a high-pressure hot shower, followed by application of Bioshield 75, a concoction that has been shown to prevent the growth of bacteria such as E. coli. Publix hasn’t employed anything that elaborate, but emphasizes that its carts are pressure-washed regularly.
 

Shoppers can do their part, too. Most supermarkets provide wipes in a dispenser at the entrance, beside the rows of carts. So take a few seconds, wipe the handle and seat, and stop giving the cooties cart-e blanche.

Q: What are the goofiest hurricane names ever?

A: On anybody’s Top 5 list would have to be Easy and Fifi. Neither was anything to laugh at, however: Easy (1950) hit the Big Bend area of Florida with winds of 125 mph, and Fifi (1973) killed nearly 8,000 people in Honduras—a storm so terrible that the name was (thankfully) retired.

These days, the World Meteor-ological Organization comes up with lists of hurricane names, and those are rotated every six years. So the 2005 list will recycle this year except for five retirees—Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma. They have been replaced by Don, Katia, Rina, Sean and Whitney.

The WMO’s criteria for hurricane names is to come up with “short, distinctive given names.’’ So you’ll probably never be fleeing the likes of Archibald III, Cooter or Princess.

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