It’s the month known for conversation hearts, love notes, and, ok, winter weather when we’re long past enjoying it anymore. But most importantly, February is the month when we celebrate love. But one thing you want to steer clear of this Valentine’s Day are Kissing Bugs.
That’s right—we said Kissing Bugs. And no, we’re not making that up. They’re real, and they’re not nearly as cute as their name sounds. These small, cone-nosed bugs (also called Triatomine or reduviid bugs) can be infected with a parasite that causes Chagas disease in both humans and pets. These bugs feed on blood during the night, and they’re called Kissing Bugs because they like to bite around the mouth or eyes.
There are 11 species of Kissing Bugs in the United States and they date back to the 1800’s. They are found throughout the Americas, with highest numbers in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, but they are well-established in many states, including Illinois. Most species have a very noticeable band around the edge of their body that is striped with orange or red. They also have distinctive mouthparts that look like a large black extension to their head. Adult bugs range from ¾ – 1¼ inches long.
About 50% of all Kissing Bugs are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease. Chagas is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are common to many other illnesses, including fever, body aches, rash, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, etc. Chronic Chagas disease develops for approximately 30% of those infected, which may not manifest until decades after being bitten, and includes cardiac and intestinal complications. Dogs are also susceptible to being infected.
These bugs can live indoors, typically in substandard housing, as well as in a large variety of outdoor settings. Places you may find them include in dog kennels and chicken coops, under porches or cement, and in rocks, bark, wood, or brush piles.
To help keep Kissing Bugs from entering your home (they like to stay near mammals, including humans and animals), you can make sure all cracks and gaps around windows and doors are sealed. Use screens on all doors and windows, and keep piles of wood, brush, and rock clear from areas near your home. If at all possible, have pets sleep indoors at night, and keep their domains clean.
The CDC recommends calling a licensed pest control professional to apply insecticide if you suspect your home or yard has been infected. Don’t take chances; call Pointe Pest Control to take care of any unwanted pests, and keep your kissing to the fun kind.