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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