One has to wonder why a bug is called a ‘kissing bug’. And while you might be forgiven to think that it is because the bug is loving, you will be unpleasantly surprised to know that this bug’s idea of romance is absolutely abhorrent and may potentially infect its victim with a loathsome disease.
Now that we have discarded any notion that the kissing bug is even remotely romantic let’s move on to unpack just how unromantic the kissing bug truly is. The bug has been christened this name because of its propensity to bite it’s victims on the face, preferably near the mouth and around the eyes.
Kissing bugs are nocturnal insects and there is nothing in the looks of their 11 species that conjures up anything close to romantic. Quite the contrary as their heads are con shaped and they have oval bodies that will either appear as brown or black in color with orange stripes on the edges of their flat bodies.
Where are kissing bugs found?
They are mostly found in the Central and South of the US and Mexico. The kissing bug loves to live near striking distance of their hosts such inside dog kennels, chicken coops or any other domesticated or wild animal dwelling. They will make their way to human homes through cracks or occupy a pile of wood, the patio and so forth. Their hosts include animals as well as humans beings. They are generally nocturnal animals and will often bite and suck the blood of their host during the night.
Do they transmit disease?
Kissing bugs are carriers of a parasite known as trypanosoma cruzi which is responsible for causing the Chagas disease. Kissing bugs that have drunk the blood of an infected animal will carry this disease and can potentially transmit it to any other host they bite thereafter. What is even more interesting is the fact that it is not the bite itself that transmits the disease. The bite will indeed puncture the skin, but it what the kissing bug does next that totally astonishing. After delivering a bite and getting its fill of the hosts blood, it proceeds to defecate in the area. The feces of the kissing bug are where the Chagas parasite resides. When the kissing bug acquires the parasites, they are stored in the gastrointestinal tract of the bug. After biting and defecating on the host, the host will get infected only if the feces make contact with the wound or come into contact with cut or the host may inadvertently touch the feces then scratch the inside of their nose thus unwittingly allowing the parasite entry into the body. Chagas is a horrid disease in which the parasite causes inflammation to the heart and digestive tissue. The best form of prevention is simply not letting the kissing bug enter one house. Treatment is a combination of benznidazole and nifurtimox.
By washing the bitten area with soap and warm water, one can avoid infecting the wound with the kissing bug feces. However an ounce of prevention is definitely better than a pound of cure in the case of the kissing bug and Chagas disease. Should you notice any sign of this bug in your yard, porch or in the house, call a pest professional to help you effectively get rid of them but never touch them with your naked hand. On a scale of one to ten compared with a fly, the kissing bug gets a nine out of ten in terms of being dangerous.