Kissing bugs

Primarily a nocturnal pest, kissing bugs hide during the day and feed on the blood of mammals (including humans), birds and reptiles at night. Feeding typically requires 20-30 minutes, during which time they inject an anesthetizing agent in their saliva, similar to that of bed bugs, so the host is not aware that they are experiencing a kissing bug bite. Kissing bugnymphs rely on feeding in order to mature.

Two bugs that look like kissing bugs are the wheel bug and the western corsair. These are assassin bugs that are in the same family of bugs as the kissing bug. However, they don’t carry the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite in their stomach, so they don’t cause Chagas disease.

Kissing Bug and subsequent bites

Kissing Bugs Triatoma spp

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Unlike their loving name, kissing bugs are a type of pest called a reduviid bug, known to bite and suck blood from their victim’s face (as well as other body parts). They can transmit a potentially deadly disease called Chagas Disease, sometimes known as “kissing bug disease.” Learn more about Chagas Disease.

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What do kissing bugs look like?

Adult kissing bugs are usually 1/2- to 1-inch long, or about the size of a penny. They have brown or black bodies, with a band around the edge of their body that’s striped with red, orange, or yellow. They have long, thin legs without thicker areas like some other bugs have. They also have straight, thin mouthparts that they may tuck under their body.

It can be hard to know where your bite came from, especially if the bug is gone when you wake up. Check in and around your bed and bedroom furniture. Don’t touch the bug with your bare hands. Use a glove or plastic bag to catch the bug without touching it directly. Keep the bug in the plastic bag or a small vial or container. Clean any areas the bug touched with soap and water or a bleach solution. Don’t put undiluted bleach on your skin. You can make a dilute bleach solution by mixing one part bleach to 99 parts water. For instance, you can mix about a teaspoon of household bleach to 16 ounces of water to make a solution to clean places the bug touched.

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Kissing bugs are sometimes referred to as:

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Kissing Bug vs. Assassin Bug

The bite from an assassin bug can hurt because they have strong mouthparts for eating other bugs or sucking juice out of a plant stem. Kissing bugs don’t have strong mouthparts, so their bites don’t usually hurt. Also, kissing bugs can pass on the parasite that causes Chagas disease, but assassin bugs don’t.

If you suddenly have trouble breathing, feel dizzy, or vomit, you may have a serious allergic reaction. Call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

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If a kissing bug infestation is suspected, contact a licensed pest professional and consult a medical professional if you are concerned about kissing bug bites.

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Bugs That Look Like Kissing Bugs

The leaf-footed bug is about the same size as a kissing bug and sometimes gets mistaken for it. (Photo Credit: Moment/Getty Images)

Adult western corsairs are about 0.6-0.8 inches long, so they’re a similar size as the kissing bug. They have an orange-red body, and their front legs are a bit thicker than their back legs. They have a large yellow dot on each wing that looks like one dot when the wings close over each other. They live mostly in the western part of the U.S.

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There are several precautions homeowners can take to prevent exposure to kissing bugs:

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Kissing Bug Bite

Like mosquitoes and ticks, kissing bugs eat blood to live. They usually suck it from animals, including dogs, but sometimes they bite people. If they get inside your house, they may hide during the day and come out at night to eat.

Another bug that may look like the kissing bug is the leaf-footed bug. Adults are about 0.75-1 inch long, so they are about the same size as a kissing bug. They have narrow brown bodies and thicker patches on their back legs that look like leaves. This may be the easiest way for you to tell the difference between a leaf-footed bug and a kissing bug: Kissing bugs don’t have enlarged areas on their back legs. Leaf-footed bugs have strong mouthparts to suck juice out of the leaves, shoots, and fruit of plants. They probably won’t bite you, but they may eat your tomato plants.

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