Four recent samples of eastern conenose bug (a species of kissing bug) lets us know that the insect is active. All were adults, which are good fliers and attracted to lights. Encounters are most likely in homes near wooded areas.
While kissing bugs can carry Chagas disease in parts of Central and South America, the likelihood of getting Chagas disease from a kissing bug in the U.S. is low, even if the bug is infected. The feeding habits of the eastern bloodsucking conenose bug make it an ineffective vector. As of 2007, there have been only five confirmed cases of the disease being transmitted locally in the U.S., and none were in Kentucky.
The eastern conenose bug is a species of kissing bug that lives throughout Kentucky. Adults (Figure 1) are black and orange with wings that lie flat across their backs. The immature stages (nymphs) have similar markings but are smaller and lack wings. Typically, these insects live in or near wooded areas where they share tree cavities, burrows, or dens with animals that provide them with blood meals. In addition, kissing bugs can live in or near doghouses, livestock barns, and chicken coops. Adults are attracted to lights so they may fly to and enter into homes as accidental invaders. Kissing bugs hide in cracks and crevices during the day and feed at night
If one or two of these insects are found, swatting and discarding them is a good means of control. If more are seen over a longer period, you can use household insecticides containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids (cyfluthrin, cyhalothrin, permethrin, deltamethrin, etc.). Select a product that is labeled for indoor use against cockroaches and ants. Limit the treatment to cracks and crevices near sites where the insects were found because that is where they hide during the day. Likely sites are near pet resting areas, where rodents have been seen, and in and around beds and bedrooms, especially under or near mattresses or nightstands
Here are some steps to take if kissing bugs are a chronic problem:
- Seal cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors.
- Seal holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside.
- Use screens on doors and windows and repair any holes or tears.
- Keep your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs.
- Remove wood, brush, and rock piles near your house.
- If possible, make sure yard lights are not close to your house (lights can attract the bugs).
- Have pets sleep indoors, especially at night, if practical.
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist