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Kissing Bugs

There are approximately 15 species of Triatoma in the United States. The name “kissing bug” actually refers to a South American species that usually bites its sleeping human victims on the lips. Also known as the conenose bug.

Kissing Bug

Kissing Bug

Adults are ½ to 1 inch (15 mm) long, brownishblack, broad, flat, but stout-bodied, with 6 reddishorange spots on each side of the abdomen, above and below. cone-shaped head, from which it derives its name. The beak is slender and tapered and almost bare. Its wings are normally folded across the back while resting or crawling and not usually noticed by the casual observer.

The insect’s usual habitat is in or near the nests of packrats or other rodents. The conenose bug life history begins with the spring or summer nighttime dispersal flight of adults from rodent burrows and dens.

At dawn, it looks for a place to get out of the sunlight and the heat. It may enter a residence through a doorway, gaps around doors and screens, or up from crawlspaces under flooring. Once inside, the insect moves toward areas of low light intensity, hiding in and under furniture between mattresses is a favorite hiding place and in closets during the daytime hour. At night, the kissing bug ventures forth in search of a blood meal, which may be a sleeping pet or human.

Life Cycle: Kissing bug life cycle takes about 1 year. Eggs are usually laid in summer and hatch in 3 to 5 weeks, giving rise to the first of five nymphal stages, each requiring a blood meal before molting to the next stage. Each blood meal can last 20 to 30 minutes and then takes 1 week to digest.

Conenose bugs spend the winter as developing nymphs and molt into adults in spring. Adults can fly and are long-lived; frequently they are drawn to outside lights at night. Feeding occurs at night, and during the day nymphs and adults congregate in hiding places. In homes likely places for them to spend the day are in cracks or crevices around doors and window screens, in bedding or mattresses, in furniture, closets, and other dimly lit locations. Outside they can often be found in animal nests and nesting material.

Kissing Bug Bite

Kissing Bug Bite

Bites: Bites from conenose bugs occur at night; victims are bitten in their sleep and may find the engorged bugs in their beds. Usually there are several punctures about 1/4 inch apart along a straight line primarily on the torso; the bite is initially painless but may swell and cause a substantial welt that itches for several days. Fifty percent of those bitten react more severely the second time, with symptoms ranging from welts that itch to swelling of the tongue, larynx, and trachea.

Disease: Many people have moderate to severe allergic reactions to the kissing bug bite. Reactions from the bite range from skin irritation and redness to anaphalitic shock requiring immediately medical attention. Another possible health problem is Chagas Disease. This is caused by a potentially deadly parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi) that lives in the digestive system of the kissing bug and is excreted during defecation or urination of the kissing bug after feeding. If this parasite enters your blood stream through the bite site or an open wound, you might become infected

Control:An attempt should be made to reduce the number of kissing bugs present in and around the home. During daylight, the conenose seek dark places to shelter, so inspect outside look beneath flower pots and outdoor furniture, especially that which sits nearly flush with the floor; any other dark, sheltered, hiding places should be investigated.

Kissing Bug

Kissing Bugs

Outside, look for rodent nests around an infested home. After removing any rodents from the nest, destroy the nest. Destroy only those nests close to the dwelling. By leaving distant nests intact, the kissing bug has an alternative site to inhabit; this may discourage migration into the home. Complete cleanup of nest sites near the home means plant materials must be removed. Make an inspection of the nest site(s) you have destroyed and remove any kissing bugs that remain.

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