What are Kissing Bugs?

Commonly known as conenose bugs or chinch, kissing bugs feed on blood from mammals and even humans at night. They acquired the name kissing bugs because they prefer to bite humans around the mouth or eyes. Their bites are painless initially but result in an insatiable itch that will last for weeks and may develop an infection if not properly tended to. Some species of kissing bugs are known to carry the T. Cruzi parasite that causes Chagas disease which can be lethal to humans if infected.

Life Cycle of Kissing Bugs

Females lay their eggs between June and September, the eggs hatch in 1-3 weeks depending on the environmental conditions. When the nymphs hatch they look similar to the adults, but with a slightly different color and may be as small as 2 millimeters. Most bugs go through a complete metamorphosis or complex stages of molting before becoming adults. But kissing bugs go through an incomplete metamorphosis; this is a simple life cycle. This means, from time, that they hatch to adulthood they change very little except in size. In the first stage of their life cycle, they are wingless instar nymphs. They successively pass through a second, third and fourth instar. The fifth instar is an adult and then they acquire two pairs of wings.

How to Identify Kissing Bugs

Most species of conenose or kissing bugs have a distinctive band around the edge of the body that is striped with red or orange markings. The adults range from about ¾ – 1 and ¼ of an inch in length. It is good to note that the triatoma protracta specie of kissing bugs may or may not have a single colored band around the outer edge of their body. Their legs are uniformly thin and long with no bulging or thicker areas along the length of the legs. Kissing bugs have a very distinctive mouth part that appears to be an extension of their heads. Hence, the name conenose bugs.

Types of Kissing Bugs

There are approximately 140 different species of kissing bugs (conenose bugs) across the world. However, eleven species of the kissing bugs are native to the United States. The most common species are the triatoma sanguisauga and triatoma gerstaeckeri, which are approximately one inch in length. In more technical and scientific terms the Kissing bugs belong to the family of Hemiptera and reduviidae. There are two tribes or types of the triatomine, of which the common kissing bug belong, and then there is the rhodiniini. Two genera or genes of this bug are found in the Americas. These are the triatoma (kissing bug) and paratritoma, another kind of conenose bug that feeds exclusively on insects but delivers a painful bite if disturbed.

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