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What Are ‘Kissing Bugs’? Chagas Disease-Causing Insects Infect 300,000 in US

While their moniker may sound love-ly, “kissing bugs” are more like a black widow than a love bug, as they transmit a deadly parasite that’s quickly spreading across the southern half of the U.S. According to IBI Times, the bug got its name from its habit of biting people on the face — not because there’s anything loving about it. Chagas disease is what bites from these bugs cause. A major problem with this disease is that its symptoms don’t show up right away.

Kissing bugs somewhat resemble cockroaches with a bit of color. Also called triatomine bugs, reduviid bugs, cone-nosed bugs and, the worst, blood suckers, they primarily are found in rural areas of the U.S., Mexico, Central America and South America. They may live indoors or outdoors, but they tend to congregate around a blood host — which is one reason I advise keeping your pets inside at night.

However, in substandard housing the bugs may be found in bedrooms (especially under mattresses or night stands), near pet sleeping areas, or in areas with rodent infestations. Whether it’s kissing bugs we’re talking about or other insect infestations, the best way to keep bugs that mainly live outside out of your home is to seal any holes and cracks around windows, walls, roof and doors, and any leading to the outside, using screens on doors and windows.

To prevent being bitten by a kissing bug, you would take some of the same precautions outside that you would to prevent tick bites. Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when walking in areas that are damp, forested or overgrown with foliage. If you’re dealing with bugs that love to live inside your home, however, such as bedbugs, then you have a number of other precautions you need to take.

Generally, you don’t think about bedbugs until you find out you’ve already got them. But, while you might want these bugs gone as quickly as possible, you'll want to use caution before accepting standard pesticide treatments in your home. The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) has reported a dramatic increase in the number of mild to serious side effects resulting from pesticides used to kill bedbugs.

The good news is heat treatment is an effective and safe option to kill bedbugs in your home. This involves exposing your house or areas of your home to a temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) for an hour to kill the bugs, regardless of their stage in life. Heat treatment can be applied to individual items, such as clothes that can be placed in a dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes, or may be applied to an entire room by a company expert at this treatment method.
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