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The kissing bug is a member of the insect subfamily known Triatominae and, so, are often called Triatomine bugs. Other names include the assassin bug or cone-nose bug. They are blood-feeding insects found in the western hemisphere and that feed primarily on vertebrate blood.
The kissing bug is a known vector of the Chagas virus, which is a serious health concern. Human and kissing bug interactions are very rare and unlikely in North America and infestations of the insects in North American homes are exceedingly rare.
Kissing bugs have six legs, but go through a number of stages, or instars, from the time they hatch until they become full adults. Because of that, a kissing bug can range in size from as small as two millimeters when they first hatch to one inch long as an adult.
Adult kissing bugs are darker in color and many species have long legs with red stripes on them. There are often short strips on the backs of kissing bugs. Some species of kissing bugs have a red stripe that outlines the body.
Kissing bugs hide during the day and come out a night to feed. They got their name from their habit of biting their victims around the mouth. They prefer to feed in the cooler night air and use heat and odors given off by vertebrates to find their way to a blood host.
The kissing bug has a piercing mouthpart they use to find blood vessels, pierce the skin and feed off of blood. Although the insects are flat before they feed, they will distend and take on a reddish tinge as they feed.
Generally the bites do not hurt, but they can cause itching after the insect has finished eating. There may be raised welts around the bite.
Kissing bugs are the only known vector for a potentially serious illness known as Chagas Disease. The disease usually presents initially as flu-like, often with swelling around the bite area, and generally passes without incident. However, later in life, Chagas Disease can cause chronic heart disease, including enlargement of the ventricles that can actually be fatal. The disease can also affect the digestive and nervous system.
The way the disease is transmitted from the kissing bugs to humans is that the insects defecate almost immediately after they feed. Because the bites itch, the feces can end up in the bite wound via scratching and cause the infection.
The best way to avoid any health concerns is to avoid kissing bugs all together. However, in North America the species of kissing bug is different from those found in South America. The North American version delays their defecation after eating, thus reducing the chance of contamination with the bite area.
Generally speaking, residents in North America do not have to worry about bites from kissing bugs and infestations are very rare. Making sure that overgrown vegetation is kept away from the house can prevent them from getting inside your home and making sure that screens and spaces beneath doors are sealed up will prevent them from getting indoors.
Rentokil Steritech technicians are pest control experts and we constantly train our technicians in the latest pest issues and methods of detection and removal.
If you have any concerns about kissing bugs or any insect issues contact us online or call us at 888-262-1509 to schedule an appointment.
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