Kissing bugs are insects that may be infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease. They are commonly known as cone-nose bugs or chinches. Kissing bugs feed on blood during the night, and they are called kissing bugs because they prefer to bite humans around the mouth or eyes.
Adult kissing bugs range from about ¾ – 1 ¼ inches in length. Most species have a very characteristic band around the edge of the body that is striped with orange or red markings.
One species (Triatoma protracta) may or may not have a single colored band around the outer edge of the body. The legs of kissing bugs are long and thin. Unlike some other species, the legs are uniformly thin along the length of the leg, and there are no ‘bulging’ thicker areas on the legs. Kissing bugs have distinctive mouthparts that appear as a large black extension to the head. These mouthparts give rise to the nickname ‘Cone-nose bug’.
There are 11 different species of kissing bugs in United States. The most common species in the south-central United States are Triatoma sanguisuga and Triatoma gerstaeckeri, which are each about 1 inch long.
Kissing bugs are members of the Reduviidae family of insects. Other reduviids that are similar in appearance (see examples at the ‘non-kissing bug’ page) feed on plants and other insects and can inflict a painful bite when disturbed, however only kissing bugs are known to transmit the Chagas parasite.
Kissing bugs develop onto adults after a series of immature life stages called nymphs, and both nymphs and adults engage in bloodfeeding behavior. Bugs feed on diverse wild and domestic animals including wild rodents, other wild mammals, and domestic dogs.
Kissing bugs are found throughout the Americas. In the US, kissing bugs are established in 28 states A total of 11 different species of kissing bugs have been documented in the US, with the highest diversity and density in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Kissing bugs are not new to the United States. There is documentation of kissing bugs in many states in records in the mid 1800s.
Kissing bugs carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi? The parasite Trypanosoma cruzi can live in the digestive system of the kissing bug. Our research has found that over 50% of kissing bugs submitted by the public from across Texas are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Never touch a kissing bug with a bare hand. The parasite they may harbor can be transmitted to humans and other animals. If you see a bug you believe is a kissing bug and would like confirmation of the species identity and to submit it for testing, our lab accepts carefully obtained samples. 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.
Humans and animals can acquire Chagas disease? The insect vector, commonly known as the kissing bug, can transmit the parasite to hosts by biting and subsequently defecating near the site of the bite. 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. Additionally, the parasite can be transmitted congenitally, through blood transfusion, and through transplantation of infected organs.
Kissing bug bite – Since kissing bugs rely on blood meals to grow and develop, their bite must go relatively unnoticed by their blood meal sources. Most individuals report that kissing bug bites do not hurt.
There is a not a ‘typical’ reaction, since individual immune systems vary. Reactions to kissing bug bites have been reported to vary from unnoticeable to anaphylactic shock. If you have concerns about a potential bite, you should seek medical attention from a medical professional. Professionals who need more information about Chagas disease in humans can contact their state health department or the Centers for Disease Control.
If you have concerns about a potential bite, you should seek medical attention from a medical professional . Professionals who need more information about Chagas disease in humans can contact their state health department or the Centers for Disease Control. If you have the kissing bug, we are able to accept photo to identify.