Despite their name, kissing bugs are anything but romantic. These tiny pests are notorious for leaving tiny bites on people in the middle of the night – typically near the mouth, hence their nickname. While it’s unsettling enough to wake up covered in bites, are kissing bugs actually dangerous? The experts at Dugas Pest Control explain why the kissing bug is potentially dangerous and share tips that can help keep your home kissing bug-free.
What is a Kissing Bug?
Triatomine bugs – commonly called “kissing bugs”, “conenose bugs” or “vampire bugs” – are parasitic insects that feed on blood. They are oval-shaped, dark in color, and typically grow to around ½ to 1 inch in length. Though juveniles do not have wings, adults do and are capable of flying. Their most defining feature, however, is a long, prominent beak that they use for feeding.
Since kissing bugs are nocturnal, they tend to hide near sleeping humans or animals. Most stay in small nooks or crannies such as cracks in floorboards, walls, or furniture. Adults are solitary and generally do not live in large groups, though females may leave eggs behind.
Are Kissing Bugs Dangerous?
As with any blood-feeding insect, kissing bugs are dangerous. While their bites are not particularly painful, they could lead to infections or serious diseases. Triatomine bugs are most known for spreading Chagas disease, which could have chronic effects lasting a decade or more after the initial transmission.
What’s Chagas Disease?
Chagas disease is the result of a parasite called Typanosoma cruzi, which is stored in the digestive tract of kissing bugs after they feed on an infected organism. The parasite doesn’t spread while the kissing bug is actively feeding; rather, it enters the wound of the bite through feces, which the insect typically leaves behind after feeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Chagas disease is potentially life-threatening. Early signs of the disease include:
- Body aches
- Fever and fatigue
- Loss of appetite or nausea
- Swelling of eyelids
- Swelling around the bite
- Recurring headaches
- Swollen glands
If you suspect you’re suffering from Chagas disease or another illness, seek medical attention immediately. Other animals may also suffer from this disease, so contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has been bitten.
How Can You Prevent Kissing Bugs?
The last thing you want is to discover bite marks on your face first thing in the morning. Keeping triatomine bugs out of your home is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this pest. Here are some ways you can prevent kissing bugs (and other insects) from entering your home:
- Seal any gaps, cracks or openings around doors, windows, or your foundation
- Repair any ripped screens or broken weather stripping
- Keep your landscaping tidy and remove any debris near your house or in your yard
- Place landscape lights (if you have them) farther away from the base of your house
- Let pets sleep indoors during the nighttime
- Check sleeping areas in your home periodically for signs of bugs
What to Do if You Find One
It’s never pleasant to find a pest in your home – especially one as potentially dangerous as a kissing bug. While your initial instinct may be to squish the insect immediately, the CDC strongly recommends that you do not come into contact with the kissing bug.
Rather than squishing it, place a clear container on top of it and then, contact a pest control professional. They’ll be able to confirm the bug’s identity and inspect your home for signs of more insects.
Whether you’re worried you found a kissing bug in your home or just want to ensure your space is completely free from pests, Dugas Pest Control in Baton Rouge can help. We’ve been providing exceptional pest control services in Louisiana since 1957. Give us a call today for a free quote!