The Kissing Bug

We recently celebrated Valentine’s day, a time of year when couples make sure to let each other know just how much love there is between them. But when we talk about the kissing bug, we don’t mean the kind you get from your sweetie.  Kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, assassin bugs, or triatomines, get their name from choosing to bite their victims close to the mouth, possibly due to their attraction to the carbon dioxide coming from a mammal’s breath.

Adult bugs are about 6/8 inch long and range in color from dark brown to black, wings and six equally-spaced reddish-orange spots. Kissing bugs also occur in and around homes, where they feed on the blood of humans, rats and other animals. Additionally, they feed on other pests – including other kissing bugs! During the day they take refuge, but at night time they search for blood when their host is asleep and the air is cooler.

In the southern United States, on rare occasions, some of these bugs transmit Chaga’s disease among their victims. Rather than transmitting it through its saliva as most would assume, kissing bugs transmit this to humans via its feces.  It can also be spread from human to human via blood transfusion and organ transplantation, ingestion of infected food and from mother to fetus.  Mild symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, and rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Though rare in this part of the United States, if you spot these bugs, you know exactly who to call – Call the mouse!

Melissa Brown
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5 Bugs to Love

Valentine’s Day is a day of LOVE!  Bugs aren’t something that we usually “love” but in the spirit of the holiday, here are 5 bugs to love!

  1. Ladybugs are not only one of the cuter bugs out there but they are beneficial because they eat large quantities of aphids, mites and other arthropods that feed on various plants in your yard or garden. Imported more than 100 years ago to defend orchards and orange groves, ladybugs can eat up to 5,000 pests in their lifetime.
  2. Earthworms are nature’s most efficient composters.  These scavengers create the kind of well-aerated, humus-rich soil gardeners call “black gold.”
  3. The love bug is also known as the honeymoon fly, kissing bug, or double-headed bug.  The adult is a small, flying insect common to the southeastern United States, especially along the Gulf Coast.  During and after mating, adult pairs remain coupled, even in flight, for up to several days.
  4. The praying mantis is named for the “praying” position that it often assumes.  This insect will eat just about any living thing it can fit in its mouth, helpful or not. It is known to consume mosquitoes, nocturnal moths, bees, beetles, small lizards, even frogs—as well as fellow praying mantises.
  5. Bumblebees collect nectar and the pollen that will make tomato plants and apple trees produce more fruit.  The female bumblebee can sting but they much prefer to stick to gentler business.

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