Friday, December 16, 2011

Eastern Blood-Sucking Conenose

This time of year thoughts turn to Christmas and traditions. One tradition many of us are happy to indulge in is sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe with a special someone. No one however would be happy to be kissed by the Kissing Bug. Eastern Blood-Sucking Conenose Bugs (Triatoma sanguisuga) are often referred to as the kissing bug because of their habit of planting a big juicy, albeit painful kiss right on the lips of hapless victims. As if Blood-sucking conenose, and kissing bug weren't weird enough names, they are also called Mexican Bedbugs. None of these names are very reassuring and there is good reason, these bugs are just not something we want to share our homes with. They can and do make their way into our dwellings and once inside they may use us as a source of food. They seem to sense the carbon dioxide coming from our breathing, once they have landed on our mouth they will use their beak-like rostrum (mouth) to pierce our skin and suck our blood. They inject an enzyme along with their saliva that contains a deadening agent that numbs the area being bitten so that you will not feel the initial bite. This enzyme will  cause significant problems for some people who have an allergic reaction to it. It can cause nausea, vomiting, fainting spells, red blotches as well as burning, itching and swelling at the bite sight. It can also cause anaphylactic symptoms in some individuals. There are approximately 140 species of conenose bugs in the World, with 15 species found in the United States each belonging to the family Reduviidae. They all have the capability to bite humans but in some parts of the Southwest and into Mexico and areas further south they carry this ability even further by defecating while they feed. This behavior causes the spread of a disease called Chagas disease. 

The symptoms of Chagas disease vary over the course of an infection. In the early, acute stage, symptoms are mild and usually produce no more than local swelling at the site of infection. The initial acute phase is responsive to antiparasitic treatments, with 60–90% cure rates. After 4–8 weeks, individuals with active infections enter the chronic phase of Chagas disease that is asymptomatic for 60–80% of chronically infected individuals through their lifetime. The antiparasitic treatments also appear to delay or prevent the development of disease symptoms during the chronic phase of the disease, but 20–40% of chronically infected individuals will still eventually develop life-threatening heart and digestive system disorders. Chagas disease is contracted primarily in the Americas, particularly in poor, rural areas of Mexico, Central America, and South America; very rarely, the disease has originated in the Southern United States. (Taken from Wikipedia)

Females will lay clusters of eggs that hatch in a few days. After hatching, the nymphs must complete up to 8 instars (molts) before reaching adult size. These bugs need blood to survive, it is their sole source of food. Humans are not the first choice when choosing a host, they typically invade pack rat nests and feed on the blood of these mammals. They will also hang out in dog houses or other areas where dogs are bedded. They can and do bite dogs and may spread chagas disease to your pet where the disease is prevalent.

These bugs are nocturnal and are often attracted to lights at night. It is proximity to human structures that often leads them into our homes. Because of their potential to bite they should not be tolerated in our homes. If you notice a significant number of these around your home, you may want to consider extermination. Making sure homes are sealed tight leaving no cracks for them to crawl through should help keep them out of your home. Eliminating areas where rodents would be attracted to will also help as they are frequent feeders on rodents, and will definitely be attracted to areas where mice and rats are located.

There is no reason to live in fear of these bugs, especially in Missouri as they do not occur in large numbers. I've only ever seen two in 20 years. They are harmless outside in their natural habitat feeding on rodents and other mammals. Although I would not recommend sharing the mistletoe with this kissing bandit


  1. Hi, just found your Blog after finding yet another Cone nose Bloodsucker in my home...Wanted to say BEWARE!!! I live in rural central NC, very close to the VA border. Early last summer (2011) I was bitten on 3 separate occasions by one of these...after the second bite(s) on my arm (the first was on the bottom of my foot!)my body reacted with fairly severe swelling at the site...I went to the Dr. who said it was probably staph...I thought it was a spider bite of some kind but had not seen the culprit - although knew it had happened at night. The day after my 10 day round of some serious antibiotics ended...I was bitten again! Talked to the Dr's nurse who believed me that something was biting me... and encouraged me to fumigate and find out what it was. I knew IDing something like this would be like finding a needle in a after the second biting we had cleaned, vacuumed, sealed, name it! A day after another round of antibiotics was called in for me...I had been sitting in the glider rocker in my bedroom, my little girl came in and i got up...and she pointed to the white chair cushion and said "Look!" and there just hanging out waiting for its next bloodmeal was a full grown Cone nose! I was stunned and thought there is no way that big thing is what has been biting could we have missed that in all the cleaning!? After i got over the initial denial, I captured the dastardly thing and proceeded to try to ID it...Needless to say, this is one BAD BUG...especially if you have allergies or are what much of the info calls "sensitive persons".This summer (and June has just begun) we have found 2 of these in our house. One adult that i think was biting my daughter and tonight a young one... Arghhh! We will continue to anihilate these bugs...We have no dogs and certainly no pack rat nests near our home..we do have cats in and out and the odd raccoon and opossum that visit our back deck for the cat food we sometimes forget to bring in at night...None of our bites were anywhere near out mouths (and i DO thank God for that!). I have also read that the Cone nose has a 3 year life span...Double Arghhhh!The one that i captured stayed alive for 4 weeks without water or food... From my research i also learned that due to being a vector of Chagas Disease, that this bug is highly feared and dreaded in points south of the Mexico border...There are similar feelings here at my house in north central NC. Thanks for getting info on this BAD BUG out to the public!

  2. Unfortunately I know this bug all too well. I've been bit many times over the past 12 years or so--since we completed an old log restoration in a woodsy rural area in southern Ky. They bite me primarily in the spring, it seems... It's very painful, turns red, swells and turns hard under the skin. Sometimes it will take several weeks to finally heal. For some reason my wife in bed next to me is rarely bitten by them.
    I've been bitten about 10 times already this spring--almost always on the lower body, especially my legs and buttocks. We keep a very clean house, it's very frustrating that we don't see them so they could simply be removed--I think they may be finding shelter and a natural habitat in some of the splits and deep cracks in our old log walls. I've been trying to avoid room foggers and hired exterminators but seriously...I've had enough and something has to give. Any advice would be much appreciated. Nasty nasty bugs!

  3. We live on a small farm in central Florida and have been fighting these insects for years. Our home was built in 1995 so age isn't a factor.I can't confirm that the bits I received were from this nasty bug, but found a dead one under my chair where I fell asleep. We have had a bug man since '95 and does his best to keep the population down. At least this slows them down when they get in.If a way to rid our home is found I would appreciate the information.

  4. hi...ive been bit by this bug last august 1,'12..3am midnight..and i experienced low of blood pressure..sudden allergic face feels like it was thick and also some parts of my body..first i thought it was just from my allergy of eating sea foods..but then i realized i didnt eat seafoods the whole day..8am i feel like my body back to normal but still i had this strange feelings so i went to my physician to be sure and give me this Antihistamines for the allergic reaction and another for the dizziness effect of i arrived into my house i remember that my auntie once said bitten by a bug and experience just like what i experienced that day..i ran into my bedroom to check my bed sheet..flipped my wooden bed to check, then im shocked that there was one unfamiliar bug..i killed it of course before it goes away..i brought extra medicines to be sure that next time i got bit again i know what to do....ok now btw..i commented just right now because ive been bitten exactly 1am today and i was about 1hr sleep b4 it happened again T_T..i checked my bed ad it was that bug again..again im now experiencing allergic reactions..but it looks like its worst than the first bite..i took my medications before it gets even worst..i had read many sites about this bug and then realize that its not just an bite..its also a life dont just sit back if you had issue about this fuckin bug..trace where it hides..and terminated them before they bite you or your family...

  5. Hi, It's spring again--so I'm back, along with the lowdown bloodsucking conenoses (I painfully submitted the June 6 comment). On my lower legs I count eight very swollen, itching and oozing painful bites. SOB!
    I'm going to try applying an insect repellent (deet) for the rest of the spring season...

  6. rob-
    Howdy. I suspect the conenose has been responsible for several bites at night over the past 4 weeks. I awoke to a blister, as if I had been 2nd deg. burned, along w/ the "normal" swelling and numbness of a spider bite. I was alarmed at the blistering and "seeping" associated with the bites, went to the help there. have been shaking out blankets, vacumming @ BED, considering DEET, and NOT SLEEPING WELL!.......aint MOTHER NATURE GREAT? as much as I hate to use "bug bomb" chems I may have to do it, as this lil bug causes me great discomfort. may try placing some cedar shavings, and citrus peels under sleeping area to discourage....any other "non toxic" solutions would be great! HELP PLEASE!

  7. I live in Arizona and have been bitten many times over the last 10 years by the cone noses. We live in the desert and it is impossible to irradiate the pack nests be cause pack rats are in all parts of the desert. I have been bitten so many times that I react violently to the bites. They almost always bite me on my left jaw while sleeping. I sleep on my right side. The next day I will feel a tiny itch and unconsciously scratch it. Then it explodes into an inflamed itching burning oozing red welt. The last several bites have become infected and I now have coin size scars on my jaw. The last bite that was infected contained 12 puss pockets where I was feasted on 12 times while sleeping. It took at least 6 weeks to heal and I have a red scar 4 months later. I have tried everything to prevent them, including brushing my small dog after being outdoors and I sleep with mosquito head gear and live in fear of the night. When I find a cone-nose alive or dead, I break them in half and flush them. Never touch them. They can appear shriveled and dead, yet still be alive. They carry filth and disease. I have read that they are attracted to the light inside the house at night and fly in when a door is opened or hitchhike in on hair or clothing. We moved 5 years ago and they are worse than ever in our brand new, tightly sealed house. I wondered if they came over in my clothing from my closet. If anyone knows any solutions, I would love to hear.