Give me a kiss, baby!
Sounds harmless, right? I mean if someone you love asks for a kiss, we kindly oblige. But what if it’s a bug? What if it’s the Kissing Bug? Now, that’s a problem.
Kissing bugs are members of the Reduviidae family of insects. Other reduviids, that are similar in appearance, feed on other insects and plants. If disturbed, they can inflict a pretty painful little bite.
But only the Kissing bugs are known to transmit the Chagas parasite, which, we’ll discuss more in a minute.
Kissing bugs develop into adults from a nymph stage, and both nymphs and adults engage in blood-feeding behavior.
These bugs feed on a pretty wide variety of wild and domestic animals including wild rodents, other wild mammals, and domesticated dogs.
Varying in size from about 3/4” – 1 1/4” in length, most species have a very characteristic striped orange or red band around the edge of the body. The legs of Kissing bugs are generally long and thin.
One very distinctive feature of the Kissing bugs are their mouth parts. It sort of appears as a large black extension to the head. These mouth parts most likely give rise to the nickname ‘Cone-nose bug’.
“Ok, so I’ve seen these guys around, what’s the big deal?”
Well, the this little guy carries the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which can live in its digestive system and can be transmitted to hosts by biting and then defecating near the site of the bite.
Kissing bugs can enter homes, hunting cabins, dog kennels, or other areas where they may find hosts on which to feed. Dogs can also become infected through the consumption of infected bugs.
Researchers have found that over 50% of Kissing bugs submitted by the public in some areas of the country are infected with this particular parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Chagas disease can be found in humans, dogs, and other mammals. In humans, Chagas disease manifests in two phases: acute phase and chronic phase.
After becoming infected with the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, the acute phase can last for a few weeks or months. This phase can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are common for many types of sicknesses, including fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Of those who are infected with the parasite, approximately 30% are at risk of developing chronic Chagas disease.
Chronic Chagas disease includes cardiac complications and/or intestinal complications, and these signs may not be apparent until decades after the initial infection. Cardiac signs include enlarged heart, heart failure, altered heart rate, and/or cardiac arrest. Intestinal signs include an enlarged esophagus or colon, which can cause problems with digestion.
“Wow, so this can can be a real problem, right? What should I do if I find one in or around my home?
First, yes. Kissing bugs can be a real problem, maybe even one that plagues you throughout your life if you’re bitten by one that carries the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
So, if you do find one here’s what you should do:
Never touch a kissing bug with a bare hand.
A glove or small plastic bag may be used to catch the bug to avoid direct contact with the bug.
The bug may be stored in a sealed plastic bag, in a vial, or other small container.
All surfaces with which the bug came into contact should be thoroughly cleaned with a bleach solution.
Call us immediately for a proper identification of your specimen.
“What can I do to keep them away from my home and my pets?”
Because adult bugs are attracted to lights, we recommend that lights be turned off at night around houses and kennels.
Kissing bugs can fly in from many yards away, or from nearby wildlife habitats, so pesticide treatment may not reduce the threat of new colonization. However, some insecticides can be effective against Kissing bugs when sprayed around homes and the kennel areas.
Again, if you see something that even remotely looks like a Kissing bug, try to capture it using the above mentioned techniques and call our office immediately. We’re here to help.
If you want to take a proactive approach to treating your home, not just for Kissing bugs, but for all invasive pests, give us a call today at (731) 285-4982 or just click here.
Have a great week!