Kissing bugs, or Conenose bugs, are considered true bugs and can be found in Tennessee and Kentucky. They are mostly known to carry the parasite that causes Chagas disease. Kissing bugs have a piercing mouth piece that is used to suck the blood from their prey. Kissing bugs measure between ½ and 1 ¼ inches and are pear shaped flat insects. Their color can be brown or black and the sides of their bodies have orange, red, or tan colored markings. Kissing bugs only consume the blood of animals or humans and usually wait until their prey is asleep to feed. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide that humans exhale and they generally bite people in areas of the body that are soft, such as the skin around the eyes and on the lips, which is how they received their name. Feeding off armadillos, opossums, raccoons, skunks, rodents, bats, and pets the bugs contract the parasite that causes Chagas disease, which is very dangerous for humans. While kissing bugs feed, they are known to defecate, which is how humans can get infected with the parasite. Under optimal conditions kissing bugs can mature within a few months. Their developmental stages consist of 5 instars and they start feeding a couple of days after hatching from the egg. A female can lay several hundred eggs throughout her life.
To prevent an infestation it is advisable to seal all foundation cracks and crevices, in addition to entry points around windows and doors. Keep the home clean and decluttered to reduce hiding spaces and keep piles of wood away from the house wall. Weather stripping and insect screens should be installed, pets and their resting areas inspected. Because kissing bugs are attracted to white light, keeping outside light sources shut off or installing yellow light bulbs can reduce kissing bug activity. To control an infestation a trained pest control professional can help assess the situation and establish a treatment plan. In some cases exclusion work must be performed to keep rodents out. Openings in the attic, chimney, crawl space or fireplace lead to rodent infestations that bring bug s into the house. If you find a kissing bug, do not touch it with your bare hands or squish it!