As one of the romantic days of the year draws nearer, the last thing you may want to think about is insects. However, whether you know it or not, you may have locked lips unknowingly with a creepy crawler.

A nasty, blood-sucking insect dubbed the kissing bug has made its way up to Pennsylvania. While it may not have many reports in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Hazelton areas, it has been located across the state, which should give you pause. So, what exactly is the kissing bug, and why should you be on the look-out for it?

kissing bug also has a cone-shaped head and has six legsWhat is a Kissing Bug?

The kissing bug, or triatomine bug, is a type of reduviid bug. Also known as conenose bugs, these insects are quite small. They can be between 14 to 24 mm, and they can be identified by their long, oval-shaped bodies. 

The kissing bug also has a cone-shaped head and has six legs. Usually darkly colored, these pests are usually black or brown, though some of their species can have red, yellow, or tan markings. Once you know what they look like, they are pretty easy to pick out of the crowd.

What’s the deal with Kissing Bugs?

Kissing bugs are secretive; they don’t normally come out during the day and make it their business to stay hidden. In fact, you may not even know you have one on you until you discover bites the next day. These insects have a special toxin that numbs the skin, so you don’t feel the pinch when they bite you. When outside, they are attracted to lights, so your porch light may bring a few unwanted insects your way.

Kissing bugs do bite, and because they are attracted to carbon dioxide, they love to bite near the face and mouth. This unfortunate combination of events has given these pests their name. What’s worse, is they often cluster bite, so you won’t just have one little welt.   

Though the bites aren’t serious, they can cause mild pain or redness at the bite site. They are blood-feeding insects that target animals and humans, and like bedbugs, they feed during the night. A small percentage of people can be allergic, causing itching, swelling, and other allergic reactions. 

The Danger of Kissing Bugs

While a few bites may not seem like a big deal, the disease these tiny pests carry can be deadly. Kissing bugs carry the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi, or Chagas disease. This illness transfers through feces. When rubbed into broken skin, it can cause serious infection. It doesn’t have to be an open wound, either. Simply scratching an insect bite can be enough to transfer the disease.

People who contract Chagas can experience flu-like symptoms after infection. They can experience a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

While you can recover from Chagas, it can potentially be deadly.

Are Kissing Bugs in Pennsylvania? 

While there isn’t an exact number, kissing bugs have been reported in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Health doesn’t track the insect, nor do doctors track Chagas disease reports. Though insects have been spotted throughout Pennsylvania, they are rare in the area. However, reports are on the rise. 

Since Northeastern Pennsylvania is a dense, wooded area, kissing bugs may move right in. These insects live in areas with plenty of food sources, so wooded areas and trees are two of their favorite hangouts. They typically need rodents or birds to feed on, but most animals will do. The best way to combat these blood-sucking creatures is to know what they look like and stop them from getting inside your home.

Kissing bugs do bite, and because they are attracted to carbon dioxideProtecting Against Kissing Bugs

The best way to protect yourself from kissing bugs is by keeping them out. These insects can slip through cracks and crevices to get to a reliable food source, so be sure to caulk any possible openings. Check utility lines, plumbing, and cables; anywhere there might be an opening. Shut doors tightly and repair any cracks or damage to your foundation.

Do a routine check on the outside of your home including window screens, crawlspace and attic vents, and other screened openings. Repair any damaged or missing weather stripping. It also helps to keep your yard maintained. Remove any brush, fallen branches, or rock piles that may be near your home. A rule of thumb; if an animal would like to live in it or use it, make sure it’s far away from your home.

In addition to traditional upkeep, if you have any outdoor pet areas, like a doghouse, chicken coop, or other animal enclosures, be sure that you perform the same maintenance on them. In fact, it’s better to bring pets inside at night if you can avoid any nightly “kisses.”

Found a Kissing Bug?

Kissing bugs aren’t exactly “social.” They like to keep hidden beneath porches, rocky structures, or under cement. You can find them hiding out in rock piles, wood, brush, or even in tree bark. If there’s an animal, you may be more likely to see them. Kissing bugs live in rodents’ nests, animal burrows, or even in outdoor kennels and coops.

If you come across a kissing bug, do not handle it. Its body may be contaminated. Use gloves or a plastic bag to handle it and place it in a plastic back, vial, or container. Clean all areas the kissing bug may have touched with disinfectant or bleach to kill the parasite. Also, if you want to be sure they are gone for good, consider contacting a pest control expert.

No Kissing Allowed

While the kissing bug may not be running rampant throughout the Northeast, these insects have been spotted across the state. The best way to protect yourself is by knowing what to look for and fortifying your home. Like other pests, they will look for the easiest food source and stick around as long as possible. To help guard against potential invasions, console a pest control expert for additional advice on how to keep pests out for good.



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