Where Are Kissing Bugs Found? Uncovering Their Secret Habitats

Kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, are mainly found in rural and mountainous areas, especially in warmer climates. These blood-sucking insects are attracted to lights on warm nights and can enter homes through doors or open windows (source). While they can be seen throughout most of California, their presence isn’t limited to the United States (source).

As you dive deeper into this topic, you’ll learn more about the locations and seasonality of kissing bugs, as well as any potential risks associated with them. Understanding where these insects are commonly found can help you take precautions to protect yourself and your home from their unwanted presence.

Kissing Bugs: An Overview

Kissing bugs are a group of insects belonging to the Triatominae subfamily, which is part of the Reduviidae family. These insects are often found in various habitats, depending on the species. Some common places where you may come across these bugs include cracks and holes in substandard housing or outdoor settings like woods and fields.

These insects are called “kissing bugs” because they tend to bite people near the mouth area while they sleep. They are not only known for their biting habits but also for their role in transmitting a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. According to Texas A&M University, about 55% of kissing bugs are infected with this parasite.

Kissing bugs have some distinct characteristics:

  • Adult kissing bugs range in size from 0.5 to over 1 inch (13.0 to 33.0 mm) in length.
  • They have an elongated cone-shaped head.
  • Most of them have red-orange banding on their abdomen.

Here’s a simple comparison table of some common species of kissing bugs:

Species Size Appearance
Triatoma sanguisuga 1.0 to 1.5 inches (25 to 38 mm) Dark brown or black with orange-red markings
Triatoma gerstaeckeri 0.8 to 1.3 inches (20 to 33 mm) Dark brown or black with distinctive red markings
Triatoma protracta 0.5 to 1.25 inches (13 to 32 mm) Dark brown or black with orange-red markings

In conclusion, kissing bugs are a group of insects known for their bites and potential to transmit parasites. They can be found in various environments, including substandard housing and outdoor settings. Their size and appearance can vary by species, but they generally have a cone-shaped head and red-orange banding on their abdomen.

Types of Kissing Bugs

Triatoma Sanguisuga

The Triatoma sanguisuga is a type of kissing bug that can be found in the United States. These bugs are known for their ability to transmit the Chagas parasite, a potentially dangerous health concern for humans.

The appearance of the Triatoma sanguisuga is quite distinct. This kissing bug has an elongated, cone-shaped head combined with a slender beak-like structure on its underside, which serves as their mouth. They can be identified by their red-orange banding on their abdomen.

Triatoma sanguisuga is mostly active during dusk or night, making them harder to spot by the human eye. As their name suggests, they tend to bite around the mouth, making them easily identifiable if they were responsible for a bite on your face.

To better understand, here’s a quick comparison of Triatoma sanguisuga to other species:

Species Size compared to a U.S. Penny Mainly Active at Dusk or Night? Red-Orange Banding?
Triatoma sanguisuga Yes Yes Yes
Triatoma gerstaeckeri Yes Yes Yes
Triatoma protracta Yes Yes Yes

Remember, if you believe you’ve come across a kissing bug or been bitten by one, it’s crucial to reach out to a medical professional as soon as possible, especially considering their potential to transmit the Chagas parasite.

Habitat of Kissing Bugs

Kissing Bugs in the United States

Kissing bugs are prevalent in some areas of the United States, particularly in the southern states like Texas and California. They can live both indoors and outdoors, often found in:

  • Cracks and gaps: Kissing bugs can hide in small spaces around doors, windows, and attics.
  • Wildlife habitats: They might be in close proximity to the nests of birds, mammals (such as rats, raccoons, and opossums), and reptiles.

Being aware of their presence in these areas can help you take preventative measures to minimize the risk of encountering them.

Kissing Bugs in South and Central America

Kissing bugs are more common in South and Central America, including Mexico. They thrive in the region’s warm climate and can be found in a variety of habitats, such as:

  • Plants: These bugs often reside on different plants, seeking shelter and sustenance.
  • Wildlife populations: Similar to the United States, they associate with bird and mammal nests, as well as reptile habitats.

By being mindful of their preferred habitats, you can take necessary precautions to avoid encountering these potentially dangerous insects in South and Central America.

Behavior and Feeding Patterns

Kissing bugs are attracted to mammals, including domestic animals such as dogs. They seek out uncovered host mucosal surfaces, often biting the face, hence their name kissing bug. The mouth is a common target.

These bugs are nocturnal, so they feed at night when their prey is asleep. They are stealthy and their bites are usually painless. This allows them to feed unnoticed by their victims. Kissing bugs can spread Chagas disease through their feces, deposited around the bite area.

Here is a summary of their behavior and feeding patterns:

  • Attracted to mammals
  • Target face and mouth
  • Nocturnal feeders
  • Painless bites

Take care when dealing with these insects, and be sure to protect yourself and your pets by preventative measures such as insect screens and maintaining proper sanitation.

Life Cycle of a Kissing Bug

Kissing bugs go through an incomplete metamorphosis, consisting of three main stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

In the beginning, adult kissing bugs lay eggs in rodent nests during summer or early fall. These eggs take about three to five weeks to hatch. Once hatched, the nymphs emerge and go through five instar stages before finally becoming adults. These development stages typically occur near rodent burrows and dens.

During spring or summer, the adult kissing bugs become active and initiate their nocturnal flights. This is when they venture out from their nests in search of a blood meal. If they are successful in finding prey, engorged bugs are usually discovered amidst bedding and drapes the morning after feeding. You can often find them close to the area where their host sleeps.

It’s essential to be aware of these life stages and seasonal changes for two reasons:

  • Monitoring and recognizing these bugs can help in avoiding bites and reducing the risk of Chagas disease.
  • Knowledge about their life cycle can aid in implementing effective control measures around your home.

So, it’s important to stay vigilant and protect yourself and your loved ones from these pesky insects.

Disease Transmission

From Bug to Human

Kissing bugs are potential carriers of the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, which causes Chagas disease. When these bugs bite a person, they might deposit their feces near the bite wound. If you scratch the bite area, the parasite can enter your body through the wound.

In some cases, kissing bug bites can cause allergic reactions. You might experience swelling, redness, and itching around the bite wound. Severe allergic reactions could lead to anaphylactic shock. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

In Animals

Kissing bugs can also transmit the T. cruzi parasite to animals, such as raccoons, birds, rats, opossums, and cats. Infected animals become part of the disease transmission cycle, increasing the risk of Chagas disease in humans.

Here are some key points about Chagas disease:

  • Acute phase: fever, tiredness, body aches, headache, and rash
  • Chronic phase: might affect multiple organs, including the heart and digestive system
  • Transmission: primarily through kissing bug bites
  • Risk: higher in rural areas of Mexico and Latin America

To protect yourself and your pets from infection, take precautionary measures such as maintaining clean living spaces, sealing cracks and crevices, and using insect repellent.

Identification and Prevention

Identification Tips

To identify kissing bugs, look for the following characteristics:

  • Long, cone-shaped head
  • Dark brown or black body
  • Antennae
  • Mostly active at night

Kissing bugs can be found throughout various regions, especially in rural foothill and mountainous areas. Adult conenose bugs can fly and are attracted to lights on warm nights source.

Prevention and Pest Control

Preventing a kissing bug infestation involves both securing your home and taking pest control measures. Here are some tips for prevention and control:

  • Install screens on doors and windows to keep bugs from entering your home.
  • Seal any cracks or crevices in your house where bugs could hide or enter.
  • Remove any potential hiding places for bugs such as woodpiles and cluttered areas near your home.
  • Turn off outdoor lights on warm nights to reduce bug attraction.

If you find a kissing bug, follow these steps for safe removal:

  1. Put on a glove or use a plastic bag to cover your hand.
  2. Gently pick up the bug, making sure not to squash it.
  3. Place the bug inside a sealed plastic bag.
  4. Put the bag in the freezer for at least 24 hours to kill the bug.

For larger infestations, professional pest control services may be necessary. Additionally, you can contribute to community science initiatives by reporting kissing bug sightings, helping researchers track and analyze their distribution.

Sanitize any areas where bugs were found by using a bleach solution. Regular cleaning and vigilance will help you maintain a bug-free environment and significantly reduce the risk of infestation.

Medical Treatment and Research

Kissing bugs, also known as triatomine bugs, are insects that can transmit the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Here’s how medical treatment and research are advancing in the fight against this bug and the disease it carries.

Research on Chagas disease is ongoing at various institutions, like the University of North Texas Health Science Center. They run a community science program, which has analyzed over 7,000 kissing bugs collected from the public to understand their distribution and potential infection rates.

Alongside this, the Texas Department of State Health Services is working closely with DHHS, NIH, and the National Library of Medicine to enhance public awareness as well as improve diagnostic and treatment methods in the hope of minimizing the spread of Chagas disease.

According to the CDC, the treatment for Chagas disease primarily involves two anti-parasitic medications:

  • Benznidazole
  • Nifurtimox

There are potential side effects with these medications, but their effectiveness in preventing or lessening the complications of Chagas disease outweighs the drawbacks. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial since this can lower the risk of potential heart complications.

Here’s an overview of ongoing research initiatives:

  • Texas A&M runs a kissing bug community science program where citizens can submit kissing bug specimens for analysis to monitor their behavior and infection rates.
  • The Texas Ecological Laboratory Program offers support to researchers working on Chagas disease and related issues, aiding in studying how environmental changes affect the kissing bug population.
  • The CDC and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborate with state health departments, like in Pennsylvania, to disseminate information and guidelines about Chagas disease management and prevention.

By staying informed and supporting ongoing research, you can help contribute to the fight against the kissing bug and Chagas disease.

Public Health Perspective

In a public health perspective, kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, can be a cause for concern. These insects are primarily found in rural foothill and mountainous areas.

When it comes to disease transmission, kissing bugs are known carriers of Chagas disease. This infection can lead to serious heart complications if left untreated. Various insects such as mosquitoes and ticks also pose risks by transmitting vector-borne diseases like Zika virus and Lyme disease, as noted by the US EPA.

To tackle this issue, entomologists, experts in the study of insects, play a crucial role in public health research. These professionals usually work in cooperative agreements with government agencies, using their knowledge in biology and DNA analysis to develop methodologies for controlling insect-borne diseases.

While kissing bugs belong to the assassin bug family, it is important to remember that not all assassin bugs pose risks to human health. However, it is essential to remain cautious of their presence and take preventive measures.

To summarize, you should be aware of:

  • Kissing bugs can be found in rural foothill and mountainous areas
  • These insects transmit Chagas disease, which can lead to severe heart complications
  • Entomologists play a key role in controlling insect-borne diseases like those caused by kissing bugs, mosquitoes, and ticks

Preventive Measures:

  • Seal gaps and entry points to your home to prevent insect invasion
  • Use insect repellents when in areas known for the presence of disease vectors
  • Regularly check your surroundings for any signs of insects

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Kissing Bug from Arizona

 

Subject: insect that looks like chagas bug
Location: 32.0481°N   -112.758°W
February 13, 2017 12:12 am
I was hiking in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on 2-12-17 and discovered this bug on the top of a peak, elevation 3000 ft.
Signature: Curt

Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug nymph

Dear Curt,
Because of press coverage, many folks send us images mistaking Leaf Footed Bugs for Blood-Sucking Conenose Bugs in the genus
Triatoma, but you have the real thing.  This is an immature Kissing Bug in the genus Triatoma, a group known to spread Chagas Disease, though most cases are from the tropics.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  According to BugGuide:  “Tetrapod blood, mostly mammalian, but avian, reptilian and amphibian hosts are recorded. The most common wild hosts are wood rats (Neotoma) but other common ones include armadillos, opossums and raccoons (possibly also skunks); synanthropic species may feed on livestock (horses, cattle, chickens), pets and humans.”  BugGuide also states:  “Bite can cause severe allergic reaction in humans. Bite and defecation into bite can transmit Chagas disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan, whose most notorious vector is the South American T. infestans. The North American species do not normally defecate at the site of the bite, and thus do not normally transmit the disease, though they can carry the parasite (Vetter 2001). Rare vector-borne cases of Chagas disease have been noted in the so. US. ”

Letter 2 – Kissing Bug from Texas

 

Subject:  1 inch big with spots
Geographic location of the bug:  South Texas
Date: 07/01/2019
Time: 01:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello, what is this?
How you want your letter signed:  G

Kissing Bug

Dear G,
This is a Kissing Bug or Blood Sucking Conenose Bug in the genus
Triatoma, a group that has garnered significant publicity in recent years because it spreads Chagas Disease through biting.

Letter 3 – Kissing Bug from Java

 

Subject: Caught a Bug in Home
Location: South Jakarta, DKI Jakarta, Indonesia (island of Java)
January 8, 2016 8:41 am
Not sure what this bug is. Came home after dinner to find it sticking on a wall. Caught it and placed it inside a plastic container. Plan to release it soon, just curious what it is.
Pretty small, I estimate no more than 4 centimeters.
Thanks a bunch! Really curious!
Signature: Guy in Java

Kissing Bug
Kissing Bug

Dear Guy in Java,
This sure looks like a Kissing Bug in the genus
Triatoma to us.  Kissing Bugs are in the news in the U.S. lately because they are known to spread a virus that causes Chagas Disease, especially in Latin America.  We didn’t know if there were reports of Kissing Bugs in Indonesia, so we did some research.  Though we cannot read what it says, the Blognya Mbak Widha (BMW) site does have an image of a Kissing Bug.  A scholarly article, The Rising Importance of Triatoma rubrofasciata indicates the species has spread to Viet Nam.  Thanhnien News states:  “Kissing bugs, so called because they tend to bite (and defecate) on the victims’ faces and lips, are moving from the jungle into residential areas in Vietnam in large numbers.”  The Vectors of Chagas Disease indicates at least two species, Triatoma leopoldi and Triatoma pugasi, are found in Indonesia, though it is uncertain if Old World species carry the virus.

Correction:  November 30, 2016
Thanks to a comment, we now realize and have verified on MedicineNet that Chagas is spread by a Protozoan, not a Virus.

Letter 4 – Kissing Bug from Mexico

 

Subject: A bug I had not met…
Location: Puerto Escondido Mexico
December 1, 2016 11:48 am
Hello, are you able to tell me what type of bug this is? We found him in our porch today while on holiday in Mexico (in early December)
Thanks
Signature: David

Kissing Bug
Kissing Bug

Dear David,
You should exercise caution in your encounters with this Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug or Kissing Bug in the genus
Triatoma, a group that is connected to the spread of Chagas Disease, especially in the tropics.  According to the Central Washington University site:  “Triatoma (Reduviidae: Triatominae), are blood sucking insects that transmit the single-celled parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (Kinetoplastida, Trypanosomatidae), which infects mammals, including humans, throughout much of Latin America.”  Though humans are not the primary host for Kissing Bugs, when other hosts, especially rodents are not available, human blood provides a ready substitute.  Based on image on the Central Washington University site, your individual might be  Triatoma longipennis.

Thanks very much!
All the best
David

Letter 5 – Kissing Bug Warning: Chagas Disease

 

Subject: Kissing bugs
October 6, 2013 8:45 am
Hi Bugman,
I am very appreciative of the service you provide. I live in San Antonio, TX and I have been following in the news the rapid increase of reported cases of Triatoma protracta infected with Trypanosoma cruzi.  I am originally from Buenos Aires and I know of the “Vinchuca” bug and the “Chagas” so I was hyper sensible when I saw the bug here. I captured one and took it to my bug exterminator who did not know what it was -I told him it was called an “Assassin” or “Kissing” bug but it did not ring a bell. I would recommend you advise folks extreme caution when handling and if bitten, report to the health department. Many, many thanks!
I’m attaching a couple of useful links. It appears there may be hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the TX state.
http://www.plosntds.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pntd.0000836
http://www.austincert.org/chagas-disease-may-be-a-threat-in-south-and-central-texas-says-researcher
Signature: Pablo Pineyro

Kissing Bug (from our archives)
Kissing Bug (from our archives)

Hi Pablo,
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Letter 6 – Kissing Bugs

 

I found your site today and I really enjoyed it. Reading about many of the "lil critters" reminded me of something i saw on a show on tv once. Now, first off, i saw this a long time ago, and do not remember the story exactly, but i think i can give a fairly good idea of what i saw.This program was telling the story of a couple who was having some sort of problem, with the wife waking up, in near convulsions, and requiring several hospitalizations. The story ended up saying that it was traced back to an insect. I do not remember the actual name, but i believe they called them kissing bugs, and i "think" the area it happened in was Washington state, but i am not sure. They said something to the effect that the bugs would crawl out at night, and go up on their bed. Then they for some reason either bit/left a toxic substance on the woman, who had major reactions to it. I am curious if you have any idea if this was actually a possibly true occurrence, or if this was simply made-up hype that i am poorly remembering.
BTW, very nice site. excellent info, and nice, easy to navigate site layout. Keep up the good work!
frank in oklahoma.
P.S. I enjoyed reading some of the references to our lovely little oklahoma scorpions and centipedes.The scorpions here are not really that bad, mostly small, 2-5 inch (tail included) tan or dark ones. Stings are somewhat painful, roughly like being stuck with a needle. The centipedes are abit worse though, as I have had painful encounters with both sets of critters 🙂 One thing I learned a year or two ago that you might find interesting. Scorpions actually have 2 venoms, or at least some species do. It is based on a salt molecule. One is for defense and one is for killing. the defense one, is actually the more painful of the two, and is used more commonly, as the killing venom is more "taxing" for the scorpion to produce. I’ll see if i can find the link to the report i saw this info in.found one link, i have a better one, but will have to look around to find it.

Hi Frank,
Thank you for the nice letter. The story about the Kissing Bugs is true. They are true bugs and members of the Assassin Bug family Reduviidae. In Los Angeles we have a species called the Western Cone-Nose Bug, Triatoma protracta. According to Hogue, our favorite expert, "The Western Cone-nose Bug can be readily recognized by its medium size (5/8 to 3/4 in. long) and solid blackish or dark brown color. The abdomen has flared sides and is compressed in the center. This bug has a bad reputation, rightfully earned. It belongs to a group of bugs called Kissing Bugs (from their habit of biting sleeping persons about the lips; they are also known as Bellows Bugs, Walpai Tigers (in Arizona), Cross Bugs, Big Bedbugs, China Bedbugs, or Sacred Bugs). The normal food of kissing bugs is the blood of vertebrate animals, including humans: among the many species in the American tropics are some that act as vectors of Chagas’ Disease, a serious malady caused by a trypanosome protozoan similar to that which causes African Sleeping Sickness. … The bug’s saliva contains substances foreign to the human system and capable of causing a serious allergic reaction. The symptoms range from simple itching, severe swelling, joint pain, nausea, chills, and dizziness to anaphylactic shock. Persons exhibiting severe allergic symptoms after a bite by one of these bugs are advised to consult a physician immediately and also to capture the bug and keep it alive for diagnosis. It should be emphasized, however, that the bug’s bite causes little or no reaction in most individuals; like the sting of the Honey Bee, it is not to be unduly feared except by a few especially sensitive individuals."

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Kissing Bug from Arizona

 

Subject: insect that looks like chagas bug
Location: 32.0481°N   -112.758°W
February 13, 2017 12:12 am
I was hiking in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on 2-12-17 and discovered this bug on the top of a peak, elevation 3000 ft.
Signature: Curt

Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug nymph

Dear Curt,
Because of press coverage, many folks send us images mistaking Leaf Footed Bugs for Blood-Sucking Conenose Bugs in the genus
Triatoma, but you have the real thing.  This is an immature Kissing Bug in the genus Triatoma, a group known to spread Chagas Disease, though most cases are from the tropics.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  According to BugGuide:  “Tetrapod blood, mostly mammalian, but avian, reptilian and amphibian hosts are recorded. The most common wild hosts are wood rats (Neotoma) but other common ones include armadillos, opossums and raccoons (possibly also skunks); synanthropic species may feed on livestock (horses, cattle, chickens), pets and humans.”  BugGuide also states:  “Bite can cause severe allergic reaction in humans. Bite and defecation into bite can transmit Chagas disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan, whose most notorious vector is the South American T. infestans. The North American species do not normally defecate at the site of the bite, and thus do not normally transmit the disease, though they can carry the parasite (Vetter 2001). Rare vector-borne cases of Chagas disease have been noted in the so. US. ”

Letter 2 – Kissing Bug from Texas

 

Subject:  1 inch big with spots
Geographic location of the bug:  South Texas
Date: 07/01/2019
Time: 01:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello, what is this?
How you want your letter signed:  G

Kissing Bug

Dear G,
This is a Kissing Bug or Blood Sucking Conenose Bug in the genus
Triatoma, a group that has garnered significant publicity in recent years because it spreads Chagas Disease through biting.

Letter 3 – Kissing Bug from Java

 

Subject: Caught a Bug in Home
Location: South Jakarta, DKI Jakarta, Indonesia (island of Java)
January 8, 2016 8:41 am
Not sure what this bug is. Came home after dinner to find it sticking on a wall. Caught it and placed it inside a plastic container. Plan to release it soon, just curious what it is.
Pretty small, I estimate no more than 4 centimeters.
Thanks a bunch! Really curious!
Signature: Guy in Java

Kissing Bug
Kissing Bug

Dear Guy in Java,
This sure looks like a Kissing Bug in the genus
Triatoma to us.  Kissing Bugs are in the news in the U.S. lately because they are known to spread a virus that causes Chagas Disease, especially in Latin America.  We didn’t know if there were reports of Kissing Bugs in Indonesia, so we did some research.  Though we cannot read what it says, the Blognya Mbak Widha (BMW) site does have an image of a Kissing Bug.  A scholarly article, The Rising Importance of Triatoma rubrofasciata indicates the species has spread to Viet Nam.  Thanhnien News states:  “Kissing bugs, so called because they tend to bite (and defecate) on the victims’ faces and lips, are moving from the jungle into residential areas in Vietnam in large numbers.”  The Vectors of Chagas Disease indicates at least two species, Triatoma leopoldi and Triatoma pugasi, are found in Indonesia, though it is uncertain if Old World species carry the virus.

Correction:  November 30, 2016
Thanks to a comment, we now realize and have verified on MedicineNet that Chagas is spread by a Protozoan, not a Virus.

Letter 4 – Kissing Bug from Mexico

 

Subject: A bug I had not met…
Location: Puerto Escondido Mexico
December 1, 2016 11:48 am
Hello, are you able to tell me what type of bug this is? We found him in our porch today while on holiday in Mexico (in early December)
Thanks
Signature: David

Kissing Bug
Kissing Bug

Dear David,
You should exercise caution in your encounters with this Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug or Kissing Bug in the genus
Triatoma, a group that is connected to the spread of Chagas Disease, especially in the tropics.  According to the Central Washington University site:  “Triatoma (Reduviidae: Triatominae), are blood sucking insects that transmit the single-celled parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (Kinetoplastida, Trypanosomatidae), which infects mammals, including humans, throughout much of Latin America.”  Though humans are not the primary host for Kissing Bugs, when other hosts, especially rodents are not available, human blood provides a ready substitute.  Based on image on the Central Washington University site, your individual might be  Triatoma longipennis.

Thanks very much!
All the best
David

Letter 5 – Kissing Bug Warning: Chagas Disease

 

Subject: Kissing bugs
October 6, 2013 8:45 am
Hi Bugman,
I am very appreciative of the service you provide. I live in San Antonio, TX and I have been following in the news the rapid increase of reported cases of Triatoma protracta infected with Trypanosoma cruzi.  I am originally from Buenos Aires and I know of the “Vinchuca” bug and the “Chagas” so I was hyper sensible when I saw the bug here. I captured one and took it to my bug exterminator who did not know what it was -I told him it was called an “Assassin” or “Kissing” bug but it did not ring a bell. I would recommend you advise folks extreme caution when handling and if bitten, report to the health department. Many, many thanks!
I’m attaching a couple of useful links. It appears there may be hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the TX state.
http://www.plosntds.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pntd.0000836
http://www.austincert.org/chagas-disease-may-be-a-threat-in-south-and-central-texas-says-researcher
Signature: Pablo Pineyro

Kissing Bug (from our archives)
Kissing Bug (from our archives)

Hi Pablo,
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Letter 6 – Kissing Bugs

 

I found your site today and I really enjoyed it. Reading about many of the "lil critters" reminded me of something i saw on a show on tv once. Now, first off, i saw this a long time ago, and do not remember the story exactly, but i think i can give a fairly good idea of what i saw.This program was telling the story of a couple who was having some sort of problem, with the wife waking up, in near convulsions, and requiring several hospitalizations. The story ended up saying that it was traced back to an insect. I do not remember the actual name, but i believe they called them kissing bugs, and i "think" the area it happened in was Washington state, but i am not sure. They said something to the effect that the bugs would crawl out at night, and go up on their bed. Then they for some reason either bit/left a toxic substance on the woman, who had major reactions to it. I am curious if you have any idea if this was actually a possibly true occurrence, or if this was simply made-up hype that i am poorly remembering.
BTW, very nice site. excellent info, and nice, easy to navigate site layout. Keep up the good work!
frank in oklahoma.
P.S. I enjoyed reading some of the references to our lovely little oklahoma scorpions and centipedes.The scorpions here are not really that bad, mostly small, 2-5 inch (tail included) tan or dark ones. Stings are somewhat painful, roughly like being stuck with a needle. The centipedes are abit worse though, as I have had painful encounters with both sets of critters 🙂 One thing I learned a year or two ago that you might find interesting. Scorpions actually have 2 venoms, or at least some species do. It is based on a salt molecule. One is for defense and one is for killing. the defense one, is actually the more painful of the two, and is used more commonly, as the killing venom is more "taxing" for the scorpion to produce. I’ll see if i can find the link to the report i saw this info in.found one link, i have a better one, but will have to look around to find it.

Hi Frank,
Thank you for the nice letter. The story about the Kissing Bugs is true. They are true bugs and members of the Assassin Bug family Reduviidae. In Los Angeles we have a species called the Western Cone-Nose Bug, Triatoma protracta. According to Hogue, our favorite expert, "The Western Cone-nose Bug can be readily recognized by its medium size (5/8 to 3/4 in. long) and solid blackish or dark brown color. The abdomen has flared sides and is compressed in the center. This bug has a bad reputation, rightfully earned. It belongs to a group of bugs called Kissing Bugs (from their habit of biting sleeping persons about the lips; they are also known as Bellows Bugs, Walpai Tigers (in Arizona), Cross Bugs, Big Bedbugs, China Bedbugs, or Sacred Bugs). The normal food of kissing bugs is the blood of vertebrate animals, including humans: among the many species in the American tropics are some that act as vectors of Chagas’ Disease, a serious malady caused by a trypanosome protozoan similar to that which causes African Sleeping Sickness. … The bug’s saliva contains substances foreign to the human system and capable of causing a serious allergic reaction. The symptoms range from simple itching, severe swelling, joint pain, nausea, chills, and dizziness to anaphylactic shock. Persons exhibiting severe allergic symptoms after a bite by one of these bugs are advised to consult a physician immediately and also to capture the bug and keep it alive for diagnosis. It should be emphasized, however, that the bug’s bite causes little or no reaction in most individuals; like the sting of the Honey Bee, it is not to be unduly feared except by a few especially sensitive individuals."

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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