The home-invading insect pests commonly known as “kissing bugs” belong to the genus Triatoma in the family Reduviidae, which is made up of mostly beneficial insects known as “assassin bugs.” Since assassin bugs prey on insects, their presence in residential yards will reduce the number of insect pests that are known to invade and infest homes. However, kissing bugs are an exception among assassin bugs due to their habit of invading homes in order to bite sleeping humans for the purpose of collecting blood-meals.
Kissing bugs get their name from their habit of biting people’s faces, often around the lips. After female kissing bugs finish their 5 to 10 minute bloodscuking session, they often proceed to defecate near the bite wound. Once the bite begins to itch, the sleeping victim is likely to rub the feces into the bite wound while scratching the affected area of skin. As a result, a species of parasitic worm found in kissing bug feces, T. cruzi, can be transmitted into the bloodstream, causing a disease known as chagas.
Luckily for Georgia residents, only one kissing bug species can be found in the state, but in the southwest where several kissing bug species are native, chagas disease is a growing threat. However, the kissing bug found in Georgia, Triatoma sanguisuga, has been known to transmit chagas disease in the past, and research shows that the T. cruzi parasite is becoming more common in US populations of T. sanguisuga. What is of greater concern is the high rate of serious allergic reactions to kissing bug bites, which include potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions.
sanguisuga is more commonly known as the “eastern bloodsucking conenose bug,” and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this species is between ½ and 1 inch in length, and they can be recognized for their black and oval-shaped body and distinctive reddish-orange markings bordering the outer edge of their wings. Despite their relatively large size, the kissing bug’s flat body allows it to enter homes through narrow cracks and crevices on the exterior walls of homes. Once indoors, these insect pests hide in dark corners, cracks, and other obscure areas before emerging at night to collect blood-meals.
Kissing bugs usually invade homes in groups of a dozen or more at night, and it is not uncommon for residents to find numerous kissing bug bites on their skin, as well as blood spots and dead kissing bugs on bedding upon waking in the morning. In order to prevent these medically threatening pests from invading homes, all potential entry points on exterior walls should be sealed, floors should be vacuumed frequently, and in some cases, the installation of a protective mesh net over beds may become necessary in homes where kissing bug invasions have occurred repeatedly.
Have you ever found what may have been kissing bugs within your home?