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Kissing bugs are generally dark in color, almost black, with red stripes around the legs and body. They also have characteristically long mouth parts to pierce the skin.
Kissing bugs are a flying, blood-feeding species of insect that are part of the Triatominae subfamily in the Reduviidae family. They are also called Assassin Bugs and they feed on warm blooded animals, including humans. They have a long beak-like proboscis that they use to pierce the skin and find blood to then feed on. They are found in many places around the world, but are fond of warmer areas. The ones in South America can also be carriers of something known as Chagas Disease which can be harmful to humans, but most of the types found native to North America carry less risk of this disease.
Chagas Disease is an illness that is carried by kissing bugs. When certain types of kissing bugs feed they immediately defecate. The place where the bugs have bitten causes itching and the fecal matter can end up in the bite. This is how the disease is transmitted. The illness often has no effect other than flu-like symptoms that quickly disappear. However, the disease can lay dormant for a long time and years later cause the ventricles of the heart to enlarge and lead to dangerous heart disease.
Kissing bugs live in warm and even tropical areas. Although they can be transported from other parts of the world on plants and vegetables, they are native to warmer areas. They are found all over America, but species have also been found in Asia, Africa and Australia. Since kissing bugs feed off the blood of vertebrates, they are found living in close proximity to them.
Kissing bugs live on blood. They are often found living in and near homes so that they have easy access to blood on which to thrive.
They most certainly do. They are like certain biting flies, mosquitoes, fleas, bed bugs and ticks in that they feed on blood. They pierce the skin and then blood vessels beneath them and use the rushing of the blood through the vessels for the blood to rush into their gut. Often the person being bitten does not even feel it when it happens.
Kissing bugs go through a lifecycle where they are wingless when first born. They may be as small as 2mm and will go through as many as 5 instars. The adults have two pairs of wings. They are dark brown to black and may have red markings on their back and along their wings. They have long legs and two very large antennae on their heads.
Technically, no. They do not carry venom, However, some species can carry Chagas Disease and that can be transmitted from insect to person. South American kissing bugs have this, but the North American variety delay the time between feeding and defecation, making transmission less likely.
Kissing bugs are generally found outside, but will crawl through broken screens and open windows and doors. From that point they can be found anywhere inside the home. Being warm weather insects they will prefer to be in rooms that are warm, but they can be found anywhere. You are more likely to find them if you are outdoors when they are looking to feed. In some parts of the world where thatched roofs are still used, the insects can be found in there.
The good news is that Kissing Bugs are not around all the time. They are considered “occasional invaders” because of this. They feed mostly at night and will seek out the warmth and breath of vertebrates in order to feed. So, the best way to prevent kissing bugs is to make sure that windows are closed or that screens are free of holes. Make sure that doors are closed and that they have sweeps that eliminate gaps between the bottom of the door and the ground. Kissing bugs can fly, but they can also crawl and get inside that way.
Homeowners can get rid of kissing bugs using liquid residual pesticides, baits or dusts. It is highly advised that homeowners read the entire label prior to use and follow all the label directions, restrictions, and precautions.
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