Ever heard of the kissing bug, those cute-as-cockroach bugs that sometimes bite the face or lips of humans? Though these bugs prefer to drink the blood of other mammals, don’t be too surprised if one day you find them crawling up your neck for a kiss.

What is the Triatomine Bug and What Does It Look Like?

Kissing bug

Triatomine bug is a carrier of Chagas disease.

Triatomine bugs, also known as kissing bugs, are a nocturnal nuisance whose main instinct is to find their next blood meal, wherever it may be and at whatever cost is required. What makes them even more dangerous to humans is the fact that they are known to transmit a parasite which in some cases may lead to death.

Kissing bugs are members of the Reduviidae family and are most active during the summer or fall. They specialize in feeding on blood from a range of animals that include rodents, cattle, humans, or their pets. Nymphs, the immature bugs, measure a few millimeters in length while their adult counterparts are on average about 2 centimeters long. They are also called conenose bugs because of the shape of their heads.

Triatomine bugs also have black or brown bodies and feature an elongated proboscis which allows them to pierce the flesh of their prey and feed on blood.

Where are the Triatomine Bugs Found?

These pests are common in areas that include the southern region of North American, as well as Central and South America. In the States, most of the triatomine species reside in areas like Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico.

Kissing bugs reside in both forested and dry areas. They may live in burrows or nests and feed on their victims as they sleep. You may also find them in kennels or any other location where your pets reside, as triatomine bugs are attracted to the heat and carbon dioxide mammal’s release. Feeding may last as long as 25 minutes after which they usually rest during the daytime hours.

During the daytime, you may find them lurking in dark crevices, behind furniture or under wood piles or even garbage.

What is Chagas Disease?

Many folks get scared when they hear about Chagas disease, and it’s no wonder. This is a serious disease which may result in flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches, vomiting, and swelling of the lymph nodes.

Moreover, advanced cases of the disease may result in more life-threatening ailments such as heart failure. This occurs as many organs including the heart and intestines may experience irreparable damage due to the spread of the disease in the body.

Children are most susceptible to the disease and may experience Romaña’s sign, i.e. swelling near the eyelids, before any other symptoms occur.

Can I Get the Chagas Disease From the Triatomine Bug?

Swelling near the eyelids - sign of Chagas

Swelling near the eyelids – sign of Chagas

 

Anyone who is bitten by a triatomine bug has a chance of becoming infected by the triatomine disease. However, studies suggest that infection from the bug is rare as it is passed on through the feces of the bugs. The triatomine bug would need to first be infected with the parasite that causes the disease in the first place, i.e. the Trypanosoma cruzi.

In addition to having the parasite within its system, the bug would also need to bite and feed on the human, and defecate on the wound. Even in those cases, there is no guarantee that you would become infected as the parasite would most likely pass within your system if the bite wound is irritated or scratched. According to a CNN report, only one case of the disease occurs in every 900- 4000 occurrences of contact between those bitten by the triatomine bug. Of note, in the past 50 years, only 40 human infection of Chagas disease have occurred. That’s less than one infection per year on average.

Though the disease is rare, it’s very important nonetheless to avoid it at all costs as it is untreatable and could even lead to death. To best prevent Chagas disease, reduce triatomine bug populations within your home and surroundings through pest control measures. These may include sealing cracks, repair screens in attic, and crawl space vents and caulk opening around utility lines. If a bite does occur, avoid scratching it. Reduce itchiness by using a medicated cream.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Victor 8:06 PM 29 August 2016

    I live in florida. I have found several (6-7) of these (similar) bugs in my house. So there must be a bunch of these bugs in florida. I didn’t notice any wings and I know they can’t fly. And they all had white stripes running horizontaly. They are about .75″ long. but their legs are long, and very, very sticky. One I captured the stripes were red-probably due to blood. One other one looked a little different: it didn’t have stripes and its head looked a little different. I thought perhaps that one was male and the others female. My first encounter was around 1am. I awoke and scratched my head and felt a bug in it. I got up and found the bug. I didn’t know what it was. I put it in a cup in the bathroom and went back to bed. My first clue as to the nature of this bug was later that night (early morning), I got up to use the bathroom, and when I put my finger on the lightswitch, I felt the bug. (because I have 2 airconditioners running on that electrical circuit, the switch is always warm–and the bug went only to the heat. then i flushed it down the toilet and later tried to find out more about the bug (assasin bug). Oddly, when I contact one these bugs, usually, they immediately go on their back and put their legs up in the air like they are dead (3 of them did this) (the other 3 tried to crawl away. of course they are very slow. My roomate found one on the wall of my son’s room. I was at my computer one morning at 5am. I looked down by my toe and there was a bug 2″ from my foot, and it was on its back playing dead–of course it was not. I disposed of it. On another occasion I found one of these sitting high up on my living room wall, knocked it off and then it played dead. On another occasion, my roommate moved out his old woodframe bed into an unused bedroom. Days later I noticed one of these bugs in the door jam of the adjoining bathroom (this one had blood inside it). Days after that, I was cooking and removed the lid from a pot and put on the microwave for a sec. then I put the lid back on and there was one of these bug on it. Another time I went into my bathroom, and there was one of these in the middle of my bathroom floor. Everywhere I search for info on this bug, it says they live in south or central america. Its time to wake up. I have captured at least 7 of these bugs in my house, so this cannot be an islolated incident. This is serious! sealing cracks? is this your only advice? I sure wish someone would invent a trap for these things so i wouldn’t have to stay up all night waiting for them to approach.

    • Samantha Williams 6:27 AM 30 August 2016

      Hi there, I am truly sorry about your situation. But, are you referring to kissing bugs or assassin bugs? These bugs are called true bugs and vary in size color, behaviour, and habitat. Then there are pirate bugs. Did you manage to take any pictures of the bugs you caught?

  2. Thak 9:26 AM 18 September 2016

    We definatly have these in Central Florida. They could be confused with the Pirate bug though. I wouldn’t take chances with your child or yourself there is no real treatment or cure and it could be life devastating to catch. Think Lyme Disease with nasty benefits. If you cant have a Pest Control Company come. Get something like Spectracide Bug Stop (Home Barrier) and treat the entire house. If it turns out their just pirate bugs or something at least you will have peace of mind to sleep without a blood sucking little demon coming to visit. Again I have encountered these this spring 2016′. Good luck

    • Samantha Williams 4:47 PM 4 October 2016

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, they are truly nasty. Do stay safe along with the family.

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