'Kissing bug' not a new pest in California

Dec 2, 2015

Conenose or ‘kissing bugs' (Triatoma spp.) have received a good deal of press from CBS Sacramento and other media outlets in recent weeks. Although not a new insect to California or the U.S., we thought readers might benefit from some guidance and information on these bugs in case one should encounter these seldom seen insects.

Conenose bugs can vector a protozoan, Trypanosoma cruzi, that causes Chagas disease in humans. While conenose bugs do bite humans, the protozoan is transmitted via the bug's feces, rather than through bites.

Conenose bugs are in the Reduviidae family, a group of insects known for a sturdy body and large proboscis. Most reduviids are beneficial as insect predators, and include various species of assassin bugs. Conenose bugs are easily confused with other assassin bugs as well as bugs with similar body shapes from other insect families. Conenose bugs prefer sheltered habitat such as indoors, beneath porches, in wood or brush piles, and in outdoor structures such as dog houses and chicken coops.

For information about kissing bugs, refer to UC IPM's Pests Notes: Conenose Bugs. As indicated in this publication from 2013, there is a low instance of Chagas disease in humans in the U.S. “Researchers attribute the low incidence of Chagas disease…to poor efficacy of disease transmission by the bugs, infrequent human contact, and inability of the bugs to permanently colonize homes.”

If you suspect you've encountered a conenose bug in your home or landscape, do not touch the bug with bare hands. Collect the specimen in a sealed container or take a picture and send it to your local UC Cooperative Extension office, UC Master Gardeners, or county agricultural commissioner for identification.

Visit the UC IPM conenose bugs Pest Notes as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which also has useful photos to help in identification.

The insects below are not kissing bugs: