Kissing Bugs Are True Bugs
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In the last couple of months, we have had some phone calls and inquiries about the kissing bug and the Chagas Disease. To learn more about the Chagas Disease visit the Center For Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Dr. Matt Bertone explains in a blog post that cases of the disease in the United States are rare, and most have been diagnosed by people who traveled here from outside the country.
Instead of using pesticides to control the insect, it is recommended the following strategies for keeping kissing bugs from entering homes:
- Reduce the amount of debris and vegetation directly around the home; wood and leaf piles, stacked rocks and other habitats that attract rodents can also harbor the bugs.
- Repair cracks and gaps in homes; use weather stripping on points of entry such as windows and doors, and make sure window screens are intact and holes are repaired.
- If you suspect kissing bugs are in your home, inspect racks and tight spaces, especially in bedrooms.
- Because lights will sometimes attract kissing bugs, minimizing the number of lights on at night will help to “cloak” homes.
But as Bertone points out, “Although these preventive measures will help reduce the chances of coming into contact with kissing bugs, in reality, it is very unlikely you would ever come into contact with one of these insects anyway.”
In his blog post, Bertone explains there are two species of kissing bugs that are native to the state and feed on the blood of vertebrate hosts. Their name comes from the fact that when the bugs feed on humans at night, they prefer the face, especially the lips and eyes. Their bites don’t initially hurt but often become itchy, swollen, and sometimes painful.
Kissing bugs are around one inch long when fully grown and somewhat flattened when not fed. They don’t have mandibles or chewing mouthparts, but instead, they have a long, straw-like rostrum used to suck liquids.
The sides of their abdomen and thorax are striped, alternating black and orange/red (sometimes even pink in hue), Berton writes, “The legs of kissing bugs are thin compared to most assassin bugs, likely because they do not need to grab prey but instead must be able to move quickly.”