Kissing Bugs

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  • Kissing Bugs

    in the United States

    The Kanlal $chool Nafu,alilf Vol. r:;J No.2

    Department of Biological Sciences



  • Kansas School Naturalist rSSN: 0022-877X Published by EMPORIA STATE UNIVERSITY Editor: JOHN RICHARD SCHROCK Editorial Comminee: TOM EDDY, BILL JENSEN, MARSHALL SUNDBERG, R. BRENT THOMAS, ERIC YANG Circulacion and Mailing: ROGER FERGUSON Circulacion (chis issue): 10,000 Press Run: 15,000 Media Designer: John Decker Primed by: McCormick Armscrong

    The Kansas School Naturalist is sene free of charge and upon request ro reachers and anyone interesred in natueal history and nature educarion. In-peine back issues are sem free as long as supply lasrs. Our-of-prine back issues are sent for one dollar photocopy and poseage/handling charge per issue. The Kansas School Naturalist is sent free upon requesr by media mail to all U.S. zipcodes, flrsr class to Mexico and Canada, and sur1cemail overseas. The Kansas School Naturalist is published by Emporia Srare University, Emporia, Kansas. Posrage paid ar Emporia, Kansas. Address all correspondence ro: Ediror, Kamas School Naturalist, Department of Biological Sciences, Box 4050, Emporia Srare University, Emporia, KS 66801-5087. Opinions and perspecrives expressed are rhose of rhe aurhors and/or ediror and do not reflect the ofllcial posicion or endorsement of E.S. U. Some issues can be viewed online at: ksn/ The Kansas School Naturalist is listed in Ulrichs International Periodicals Directory, indexed in Wildlife Re-viewl Fisheries Review. and appropriate issues are indexed in rhe Zoological Record. The KSN is an irregulae publicaeion issued from one ro four rimes per year.

    Kissing Bugs in the


    Kissing bugs are bloodsuc' ing ::=-::_

    m the order Hemiptera in ( e

    Reduviidae . Almost all knO\'.,

    reside in the New World.

    They are best known a5

    of Chagas disease, a di sease ':::;' !...3: :

    by transmission of the blood "

    Trypanosoma cruzi, through (heir ~~~:-,

    Vector transmission of Chaga' ..:.:,~ .

    occurs with a number of e.-:=::-:::. _

    kissing bugs. Chagas is largel ~: ':O :-. :-::-~2

    to Mexico, Central America an~ ~ __ :.-.


    Although only a few case- 0 : i,, : :_";

    Front cover: Tiiatoma gerstaeckeri, common in sourhern and central Texas. Phoro used with permission of Mike Quinn,

    Justin O. Schmidt has a PhD. in Entomology from the University of Georgia. He runs a non-profit organizarion, Sourhwesrern Biological Insrirure in Tucson, Arizona.

    Lori Stevens is Professor of Biology ar The Universiry of Vermont. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from rhe University of Illinois, Chicago. Srevens is intrigued wieh ehe generic inreractions of hosrs and parasites. She enjoys visiring family in Leavenworch, Kansas.

    Patricia Dom is a Professor of Biological Sciences ar Loyola University New Orleans. She received her Ph.D. from rhe University of Maryland and began her work on Trypanosomiais during her posr-docrora l fellowship ar Sranford Medical School.

    Mark Mosbacher received his doctoraee of vererinary medicine

    from the University of Missouri. He currently practices emergency

    veterinary medicine in Phoenix, Arizona.

    John K10tt has a Ph.D. in Entomology from the Universi ty of Kansas and is an Urban Entomology Specialisr Emeritus ar the University of California, Riverside and lives in Sedona, Arizona.

    Stephen A. K10tt graduared from rhe Universi ty of Kansas and is

    Chief of Infeceious Diseases ar rhe Universiry of Arizona.

    transmi ned Chagas disease ha'.e

    in the US, rhese bugs are corn-:,.:,;:;

    southern, southeastern and sourhs:-, : ::-:-.


    We discuss the biology 0 : - , ~

    bugs, their evolu rionary hiscof'-. : -.:::

    distribution in the United Srare;; . ::".t :.':.

    they pose for transmission of T . : .:: :

    pets and other domestic animals. 21. _ : .~ _

    control of kiSSing bugs around h: :-:-.": ::



    The 140 or so species of rria w .: i c.:-~

    or "kissing bugs," evolved from a re l:' :~ ':

    predator or "assassin bug," so ':.i..: .:.

    because it kills its arthropod p ~;: :

    injecting potent toxins and prOte::.,;

    that liquefy the insides of the p:::: rhey can be sucked out. How:::..:.

  • :,..~~.t'f~ and anyone imeresred in narural ~ 2S ;.~= !,k lam. Our-of-print back issues are ~ .: :,,:':!..ii School Naturalist is senr free upon

    ::: ~~-'-. 1!1d surf.1ce mail overseas. The Kansas .-.;;g:;. "o12~e paid ar Emporia, Kansas. Address

    .;o:i.:.'! Sciences, Box 4050, Emporia Srare _ .

  • Figure 1. Triatoma sanguisuga, the most common triatomine in Kansas and

    throughout central and southeastern US. Photo by Harold Baquet. Figure 2. Triatoma rubida, common in foo : .. (female, note pointed projection from en . L .' :

    One species, Triatoma rubrofosciata

    is found around the world, and may have

    spread in association with ships' rats. A few other species are found in Southeast

    and East Asia; however, most species

    (-125) are found only in the Americas.

    The Triatomini tribe contains two genera important for human transmission of

    Chagas, Triatoma and Panstrongyfus, the former has the most (80) species and

    includes the two most important vectors

    for human transmission: T inftstans

    in South America, and T dimidiata in

    Mesoamerica (Mexico, Central America, and northern South America). The

    Rhodniini tribe includes the genera

    Rhodnius and Psammo!estes, with Rhodnius

    profixus being an important human vector

    in northern South America.


    Ten species of Triatominae (Table

    1) are native to the United States (2, 3) where their northern limit is determined

    by intolerance of cold temperatures. Natural infections of T cruzi have been

    found in seven of these species (4). The

    Triatominae in the United States belong

    to two genera (Paratriatoma and Triatoma)

    and include four species complexes within the Triatoma (iecticularia, phyllosoma,

    protracta, rubida). The two species

    reported in Kansas, T sanguisuga and

    T !ecticularia, are in an uncertain status

    and lecticularia complex, respectivel:' (Dorn, unpublished data). They have the

    widest geographical distribution of the

    ten species found in the United States.

    The most widespread species, T sanguisuga (Figure 1) and T fectufaria, are mostly sylvatic, however, in Manhattan.

    Kansas, T sanguisuga was reporred from poultry houses, barns and houses.

    Although there are reports of serious

    allergic reactions to their bite, no T cruzi transmission to humans has been

    reponed in Kansas. Thatoma sanguisuga is commonly associated with raccoons

    and opossums and has been found in

    large numbers around human dwellings

    from Florida to Texas (4).


  • Figure 2. Triatoma rubida, common in foothill regions of Phoenix and Tucson=;:;-.i;
  • Table 1. Checklist and geographic distribution ofTriatominae of the United Stares.

    (Not including the cosmopolitan T rubrofoseiata.)

    Genera Species Species In Kansas States Distribution Complex reported from

    Triatoma Uncertain T. sanguisuga yes 23

    Lectularia T.leeticularia yes 16

    T. indictiva 3

    T. inaassata 1

    Phyllo soma T. recurva 6

    T. gerstaeckeri 2

    Protracta T. protroeta 7

    T. neatamae 1

    Rubida T. rubida 6

    Parotriatoma P. hirsuta 5

    Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florid a, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland,Mi ssiss ippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, N. Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,S. Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

    Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, N. Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,S. Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

    Arizona, New Mexico,Texas


    Arizona, California,Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas

    New Mexico, Texas

    Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah


    Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas

    Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada,New Mexico

    potential niche, much broader than its

    current geographical distribution.


    Kissing bugs have a gradual

    development with five immature instars

    appearing similar to adults, but without

    wings. They are large bugs with adults

    ranging in length from about 12 to 36

    mm. Both sexes and all five instars feed on

    blood ofvertebrates, starting with the first

    instars which take a blood meal as soon

    as 2-3 days after hatching from the egg.

    They can develop from egg (Figure 5) to adult in several months in warm tropical

    areas when food is readily available. In

    temperate regions having extended cooler

    periods of the year, the bugs are typically

    univoltine with only one generation per

    year. In these regions bugs seek refuge in

    rodent burrows, cavities, caves, and other

    locations with moderate temperatures and

    pass the unfavorable times as immatures

    in various stages (Figure 4) . Adults live

    several months, occasionally a yea r or

    more (5), and feed throughout their

    lives. In captivity adults of Triat