The idea of anyone ever being thankful to have bed bugs might seem crazy, but believe it or not, there are some pretty nasty alternatives out there when it comes to potential insect bedfellows. In the southwestern United States – we’re looking at you, SoCal – bed bugs aren’t the only critters that bite after lights out.
Kissing bugs, the tiny nocturnal bloodsucking doppelganger of bed bugs, share a lot of similarities with their more common counterpart. Both hide themselves out of sight during the daytime, emerging at night to feed on the blood of their host. Like bed bugs, kissing bugs do not inhabit their host, instead living safely in the cozy cracks of the surrounding environment.
Because of their appetite for the blood of sleeping humans, kissing bugs often nest among the sheets and bedding, which is also where females will lay their eggs. Kissing bug bites often go undetected at first. These parasites are equipped with tiny mouth parts, capable of penetrating the skin and siphoning a stream of single blood cells without waking the host. As stealthy as bed bugs, kissing bugs can gorge themselves fully and flee to safety before the bites start to itch.
While the similarities between some of the behavioral characteristics of kissing bugs and bed bugs might be uncanny, there are some key differences. As we well know, bed bugs do not discriminate, equally prominent throughout the year and across the globe. Conversely, kissing bugs are active only in certain locales and during select time of year. The active period for adult kissing bugs is primarily during the early summer months of May and June in the southwestern US, Mexico, and South America.
While bed bugs are known to hitchhike in the suitcases and laundry baskets of travelers and invade clean homes and four-star hotels, kissing bugs enjoy a simpler existence. Kissing bugs feel the most at home in the nests of varmints like packrats, opossums, bats, and a range of rodent hosts. If these rodents decide to nest in or near your home, there’s a good chance they’ll bring kissing bugs with them.
The most notable difference between these two pests is that unlike the relatively harmless bed bug, some species of kissing bugs are known to carry harmful diseases that are communicable to human hosts. Chagas disease can be transmitted to humans through contact with kissings bugs, and can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.
Luckily, if you are being bitten in your sleep – even during the early summer in the southwest – the culprit is most likely bed bugs and not kissing bugs. Thank goodness! If you’ve got unwanted pests bunking with you, don’t panic; call the professionals!