The Sadistic Smoocher
Kissing is a fantastic way to reduce stress and lower cholesterol. Kissing releases endorphins into the blood stream and improves your cardiovascular health. Kissing also burns three calories for every minute you remain lip-locked (and tongue-tied). Not to be outdone by humans, one bug in the world of insects also loves to kiss. You might be thinking of two bugs in a romantic embrace but that isn’t the case. The kissing bug doesn’t go after other insects, rather it prefers packrats and even people. They are found throughout the Americas, including the southern portions of the United States.
I Kissed a Bug… I Didn’t Like It
Pucker up and get ready for the kissing bug. Romance is not on their mind however… blood is. Kissing bugs are attracted to odors, carbon dioxide, and heat. If they find a way into your house, they’ll come looking for you when you least expect it. At night while you are sleeping, kissing bugs fly from their hiding places in search of a tasty meal. Once they’ve honed in on a sleeping pet or person, the bug targets the face. Because of the soft tissue, they often bite you on the lips. They also like eyelids and other soft facial tissue.
It’s Just an Insect, Why Worry?
Do you remember those techniques you developed years ago, to keep that “friend” from kissing you? They won’t work here. Kissing bug bites aren’t painful. They inject a numbing agent with their bite allowing them to feed unnoticed. Though the bite may swell to the size of a lemon, their mouth isn’t the problem. While eating, a kissing bug defecates. Their feces contain a parasite that causes Chagas Disease. If you rub the speck of poop into your eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin the parasite will gain access.
The parasite then invades your cells, reproduces, and eventually enters the blood stream. The acute phase can cause fever, fatigue, headaches, body aches, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting. If left untreated, the disease develops into the chronic phase and severe intestinal and cardiac problems can develop.
Chagas disease afflicts millions in Central and South America and doctors have now recorded several new cases in the US. The kissing bug is moving north. Who knew there could be so many problems associated with a simple kiss?
How to Avoid the Bug Embrace
In early life stages, kissing bugs are found in the nests of packrats, armadillos, bats and other rodents. When cooler temperatures arrive, adults leave to mate and find new feeding areas. This is the time when homes are most susceptible to invaders. You should:
- Seal cracks near windows and doors.
- Replace damaged window screens and repair any holes.
- Remove debris piles of wood and rock around your home.
- If possible, make sure that outdoor lights aren’t near doors. The light attracts kissing bugs.
- Keep indoor living spaces clean and avoid clutter. Regular vacuuming can help.
I Suspect an Infestation, What Now?
If you wake up with swollen bites on your face, it is too late to take the prevention route. If you find an insect that looks similar to a box elder bug, don’t smash it; capture the critter in a container and send it to an entomologist. Colleges and the state insect specialist will help you identify your bug. If the results come back positive, it’s time to call for help. There aren’t many pesticides labeled for kissing bugs; over the counter pesticides are ineffective. The Center for Disease Control recommends hiring a pest control professional. Keep the kissing to the joyful kind; give Admiral Pest Control a call today.