Kissing Bugs

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There has been quite a bit of hoopla about a disease caused by Kissing Bugs in both the newspapers and on television lately – but what’s the real deal, and do we really have anything to be alarmed about?  Is it time to panic, or should calmer heads prevail?

In the headlines it’s been called the “New AIDS of the United States,” or the new “HIV/AIDS of the Americas.”   One web headline in Texas proclaimed “Deadly Kissing Bug Disease May Threaten U.S.,” and Fox News reported that researchers warned that the disease caused by the Kissing Bug could become a global pandemic in the not so distant future.  Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it?

We hope the information we’ve provided on this website will help you make up your own mind about the threat posed by this bug and the disease it leaves behind.

One thing is for sure.  Through public awareness and action now the progression of this disease northward into the United States could be slowed or stopped.

What is a Kissing or Assassin Bug?

If you came across this usually brown, beetle-looking bug in your yard or around your house, you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance.  They are about an inch long, ovoid in shape, and sort of flat.  That’s the very unscientific description.

The scientific one goes like this:  The Kissing Bug is a member of Triatominae, which is a subfamily of Reduviidae.  It has also been called the conenosed bug, assassin bug, or a triatomine.   They primarily feed on blood of warm blooded animals, including humans, and are mainly found in the Americas (primarily South and Central, but now spreading to North America, especially the southern states and coastal areas).

They are called Kissing Bugs because they are well adapted to nesting in areas inhabited by humans, and they prefer the exposed areas of the lips and face to bite.

AFP’s YouTube Video: Health experts track ‘kissing bug’

A Little Background

History

The Kissing Bug was actually first written about in the United States in his book, The Voyage of the Beagle, in 1839.  He had encountered the bug during his travels and reported his experience of being bitten in grim detail.  Interestingly, Darwin eventually succumbed to heart disease and more than one writer on the subject of Chagas Disease has wondered if his death was not somehow related to that bite.

In 1909, a Brazilian physician, Carols Chagas, became intrigued by reports of people living in the region who talked about insects falling on them and biting them at night.  His discovery of the parasite transmitted by the Kissing Bug led to the naming of Chagas Disease.

A Few Facts

  • Only the mature Kissing or Assassin Bug is capable of flight.
  • They are attracted to artificial light sources such as porch lights or street lights.
  • They prefer blue light but have only a mild attraction to yellow or red.
  • They are most active between 1 and 4:00 AM.
  • Birds are immune to the parasite carried by the Kissing Bug.
  • Heat and odor guide the bugs to their targets at night.
  • The Kissing Bug is flat as a dime when empty, and shaped like a ball after it has fed.
  • One feeding will keep it nourished for up to four months; however, it will be happy to eat again after only two weeks.
  • It takes less than 10 minutes to drink its fill.
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