There have been a number of scary news releases recently about “Kissing Bugs” and a deadly disease carried by that bug.
A blog by NCSU entomologist Mat Bertone explains that while this disease, called “Chagas disease”’ is wide spread in rural areas of the New World – Mexico, Central and South America, in the US it is rare, in most instances carried by travelers from those countries. “In fact there are, up until the present, only seven verified cases of natively-infected (termed “autochthonous”) Chagas in the United States since 1955, and none of these was from North Carolina.
The insects that carry the disease, are Triatomines, aka “Assassin Bugs” that come in a wide variety of colorful shapes and sizes, some of which mimic our beloved Stink Bug, At least two species of the genus can be found in our state: Triatoma sanguisuga and T. lecticularia. The first, T. sanguisuga (the Kissing Bug) is more common but still not frequently encountered for two reasons: First, they are nocturnal, preferring to hide during the day but sometimes clustering around lights at night. Second, they are often associated with small mammal nests, the Eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana), for example. In North Carolina it generally builds nests out of sticks and other debris, the nests providing shelter for the bugs between their feeding excursions on the inhabitants. Other hosts are opossums, raccoons and armadillos but Triatoma sanguisuga will feed on a variety of mammals including livestock, pets, and humans.
In summary: for most of us Kissing, or Assassin, Bugs are not a threat. In fact this group of insects as a whole are very beneficial as they feast on other pest insects. And that’s why the name “Assassin” is appropriate.
Sources of information on the Chagas disease include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Wikipedia.
For more images of the Kissing Bug clan see Bertrone’s blog at
By Glenn Palmer