How to get rid of kissing bugs? Start by taking steps to keep kissing bugs — one of the grossest pests — outside your home. If these pests get inside, spray insecticides to kill them.
Despite this insect’s nickname, you won’t want to pucker up to a kissing bug — unless you kiss it goodbye.
What Are Kissing Bugs?
Also known as triatomine bugs or cone-nosed bugs, these blood-sucking creatures feed on the blood of animals and humans — biting near the mouth, hence their name. Dark brown or black-colored with red or orange stripes, these insects can grow up to 1 1/4 inches long. They’re most active from May through July, as this is their mating and nesting season.
But how can you keep kissing bugs at bay? Let’s look at a few different ways to get rid of them.
How to Get Rid of Kissing Bugs
Eliminating these pests can prove challenging since they make themselves scarce during daytime hours. While hidden, they can build nests and lay eggs in your home’s cracks and crevices. But here are several ways to keep kissing bugs away.
How To Get Rid of Kissing Bugs Naturally
- Clean your yard: Since kissing bugs like cluttered outdoor areas, it is a good idea to keep your yard clean and clear of piles. Additionally, keep your vegetation trimmed regularly.
- Clean pet beds: Kissing bugs like to hang out on mattresses, including pet mattresses. Make sure to keep these clean by washing them regularly in hot water and using dry heat.
- Use a vacuum: Don’t try to vacuum these bugs. But definitely try to vacuum areas you suspect they are living in case larvae are present.
- Keep lights off: Like many nighttime flying critters, these pests are attracted to light. So, to keep them away from your home, consider turning off lights nearby.
How to Kill Kissing Bugs with Insecticide
Use pyrethroid insecticides: While there isn’t a spray specifically made to kill kissing bugs, pyrethroid insecticides can work.
Here are a few of the pyrethroid insecticides that you’ll find on the market:
- Lambda cyhalothrin
Pro Tip: Pyrethroid insecticide names usually end in -ate or -thrin.
When using pyrethroid insecticides for kissing bug treatments, here are some places to spray:
- Door frames
- Areas designated for pets
- Places kissing bugs congregate
Following these techniques will help keep kissing bugs away, minimizing the chance of them spreading Chagas disease.
How to Prevent Kissing Bugs
The best way to get rid of kissing bugs is never to allow them into your home in the first place. Seal up cracks so these or other pests won’t get into your home. To safeguard your living spaces from these bugs, focus on these exclusion methods:
- Use weather stripping, caulk, or other sealant around doors, windows, roofs, and walls
- Bring pets inside at night
- Turn off outdoor lighting close to entryways
- Keep indoor and outdoor areas clean
- Remove piles of rocks, leaves, or wood near your home
- Install and maintain screens on windows and doors
Kissing Bug Hiding Places
Even though kissing bugs can adapt to living indoors, in the U.S., there isn’t much risk of finding them in your home. Most houses are built with plaster and other materials, such as caulk, that effectively seal cracks, which are entryways to all insects. However, older homes are more susceptible to infestations due to fractures and holes that have developed over time.
Where do kissing bugs hide in a home? Here are some places in and outside your home where kissing bugs can linger.
Where to find kissing bugs inside the home:
- In cracks of furniture
- Inside holes in walls
- Underneath mattresses
Where to find kissing bugs outside the home:
- Bags or piles of leaves
- Crawl spaces
- Dog houses
- Rock piles
- Under porches and sidewalks
- Window screens
- Within bird nests and animal dens
- Wood piles
Keep piles of wood, rocks, or leaves away from your house, or eliminate them entirely, to reduce their habitat and decrease the likelihood kissing bugs will want to call your property home.
What to Do If You Find a Kissing Bug in Your House
Ideally, they will hide anywhere they can easily access food come nightfall. So, what should you do if you spot one in your home?
Step 1: Don’t Panic
While it’s true these bugs bite pets and humans, the bites tend to be harmless. You may experience the same reaction you would expect from any other insect bite: itchiness, redness, and slight inflammation.
Step 2: Do Not Squish It
Unfortunately, squashing a kissing bug can put you or your loved ones at risk for getting Chagas disease. Also, try to avoid any skin contact with this bug, since touching it can also put you at risk for catching the disease.
When capturing a kissing bug, do not touch it with your bare hands. Chagas disease spreads through the kissing bug’s feces, which may have contaminated its body. Handling the bug can potentially soil your hands, and if the bug is infected and you touch your mouth, eyes, or an open wound, you could contract the illness.
Step 3: Capture the Bug for Proper Identification
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends capturing the suspect bug in a jar or container. Then, fill the jar with rubbing alcohol or freeze it to preserve the specimen. Take the insect to your local Extension service, health department, or university science lab for identification.
Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease
Kissing bugs can carry a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi (or T. cruzi), which causes an illness known as Chagas disease.
What is Chagas Disease?
The CDC calls Chagas a “neglected parasitic infection” that years later can cause life-threatening health problems, including heart disease. This disease affects up to 20 million Latin Americans and can cripple infected persons if left untreated.
Some typical symptoms of Chagas disease include the following:
- Eyelid swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen glands
- Body aches
These symptoms are usually present in the short term. However, the most notable long-term symptoms include irregular heartbeat, sudden cardiac arrest, and difficulty swallowing.
How is Chagas Disease Transmitted?
After biting you, often on your face or near your mouth (hence the name “kissing bug”), the kissing bug defecates. If the feces enter your body through the skin or a mucous membrane (for example, eyes, nose, or mouth), so will the parasites, and thereby spread Chagas disease.
Although Chagas disease is transmissible from kissing bugs to people, it is non-transmissible from an infected person to a non-infected person. Don’t worry, though, as transmission of Chagas disease is rare in the U.S.
Where kissing bugs are found: Nocturnal by nature, 11 species of triatomine bugs exist in Central America, South America, the United States, and Mexico. In the U.S., kissing bugs reside in 28 states, most notably Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
FAQ About Kissing Bugs
Kissing bugs can enter homes through crawl spaces, gaps around patio doors, windows, open chimney flues, and attic vents. Once they’re in the home, they may also crawl into mattresses, waiting for people to go to sleep so they can attack like bed bugs.
Like bed bugs, kissing bugs like to live off the blood of people. They are often mistaken for bed bugs because they can crawl into beds, lie in wait for people to get in bed, and attack. Unlike bed bugs, kissing bug bites may not hurt as much, so they may go unnoticed. Once they leave a mark, it will look like a mosquito bite.
One popular, natural way to get rid of kissing bugs is to use a few drops of essential oils, such as citronella, which is a promising repellent according to one study. Mix with water into a spray bottle, and spray it liberally in areas where they congregate. While this won’t kill them, it will repel them.
Another option is to use neem. Neem may disrupt growth and reproduction of the kissing bug, but it will also “immunize” it against the parasites that cause Chagas. A preliminary study shows that neem may be effective at eliminating parasites from parasite-infected kissing bugs, thereby “immunizing” these bugs against the parasites that cause Chagas.
When to Call a Pest Control Professional
The presence of kissing bugs may also signal the presence of other pests, including rodents and birds. This calls for attention from local pest control professionals. Not only can pest control experts tackle your pest issues using professional-grade treatments, but they can also help identify entry points you may have missed and suggest the best ways to keep intruders out.