They used to be limited to South America and then Mexico but now, they've arrived across the southern half of the United States. The kissing bugs have caused a public health problem in areas of Latin America, where the bugs nest in cracks of substandard housing. Officials estimate that 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have contracted the illness, and here in the U.S. up to 10 percent of dogs in shelters in southern Texas have tested positive for Chagas.
According to experts, it's very likely with climate change that the bugs will shift further north and the range of some species will extend.
FACTS ABOUT THE BLOOD SUCKING BUGS formally known as triatomine bugs:
- Kissing bugs are insects only capable of sucking and don't techinically bite.
- They don't feed through clothing.
- They look for exposed skin, then position themselves next to your body, rather than climbing on you, then touch you only with their mouth parts, feeding for about eight to fifteen minutes.
- Most insects of this species nest together during the day and search for a blood meal at night.
- They are sensitive to the odors mammals give off from skin, hair and various glands.
- They can also pick up on the carbon dioxide we have in our breath when we exhale.
- But, don't start worrying just yet. The Kissing bug's normal environment is outside living happily off of opossum, raccoons, armadillos and wood rats.
- Humans are most likely to encounter these insects in natural environments rather than the cultivated landscapes we find around our homes. That said, they will happily feed off domestic pet, too. If your dog goes out in the woods he/she could come in contact with this insect can carry it back into the house.
- They can also be carried inside in firewood.
- The bug is capable of flying and is attracted to light, so porch lights serve as a beacon, drawing the Kissing bug out from its hiding places.
- Once on your porch, in the early morning as temperatures start to rise it searches for a place to getout of the sun and the heat of the day.
- Like many insects, it can sense the presence of cool air such as the air that leaks from under doors or around windows.
- Once they find their way inside they move away from the light, hiding in or under furniture or in closets.
Triatomine bugs (also called reduviid bugs, "kissing" bugs, assassin bugs, cone-nosed bugs, and blood suckers) can live indoors, in cracks and holes of substandard housing, or in a variety of outdoor settings including:
- Beneath porches
- Between rocky structures
- Under cement
- In rock, wood, brush piles, or beneath bark
- In rodent nests or animal burrows
- In outdoor dog houses or kennels
- In chicken coops or houses
Because most indoor structures in the United States are built with plastered walls and sealed entryways to prevent insect invasion, triatomine bugs rarely infest indoor areas of houses. Discovery of immature stages of the bug (wingless, smaller nymphs) inside may be an indication of infestation.
- While this bug is not considered a common, widely spread bug, it is serious when discovered inside the apartment or home because it carries a parasite that causes the Chagas disease.
- Chagas disease is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.
KISSING BUG LIFE CYCLE:
The Kissing Bug's life cycle lasts about one (1) year, with the Kissing Bug hatching from the oval, pearly-white egg into a nymph that goes through 5 molts to reach the adult stage. Each molt will only take place after a blood meal. A molt is when the insect sheds its exo-skeleton, and grows a larger exo-skeleton that is larger.
Eggs are usually laid from May to September and hatch in 3 to 5 weeks to release the first of the five (5) nymph stages. Each molt stage can only take place after a blood meal. The Kissing Bug over-winters as a nymph and molts into adults in the spring. Adults can fly and are long-lived.
Interesting stuff for sure....
Jill Gilardi WBRC First Alert Certified Meteorologist