Dangerous ‘kissing bug’ in Texas could cause deadly disease for you or your pets, experts warn

Entomologists say there is an uptick in 'kissing bug' populations this year, with over 300 in just one location

The year of 2020 is definitely one for the books. From murder hornets to aggressive rats, there’s another insect that Texans specifically may need to be concerned about — the “kissing bug.”

According to a report from AgriLife Today, entomologists at Texas A&M have seen an increase in kissing bugs — insects that carry a parasite that could cause Chagas disease, which could be fatal to humans and animals.

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Researchers said they’ve already collected over 300 kissing bug specimens in one location, where just last year, they only found six. The collection site is located near Mission, Texas, which is roughly a four-hour drive south of San Antonio.

How to recognize a ‘kissing bug’

Kissing bugs look fairly similar to cockroaches and are known to feed on mammals’ blood, according to a previous KSAT 12 report.

They’re found across the southern U.S., Mexico, Central America and South America, especially during the hottest months of summer, according to AgriLife experts. With the Texas heat in full swing this month, one of the hottest months of the year, this is when the bugs are most active.

Kissing bugs can grow to be longer than the width of a penny and both their heads and mouths are cone-shaped.

Kissing bug compared to U.S. penny. (Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University Agriculture and Life Sciences).

These insects tend to feed on blood at night, when animals and people are asleep, according to officials. Bites are usually painless, and many don’t even realize they’ve been bitten.

The bites can turn deadly if the bug is infected with a parasitic disease known as Trypanosoma cruzi and defecates into the open bite or any other open wound, according to a previous KSAT 12 report.

About 50%-60% of these insects in Texas are infected with the disease, according to researchers.

AgriLife officials said the bugs are attracted to lights and can feed on dogs, wild mammals, birds, humans and other insects, such as crickets.

According to Texas A&M AgriLife experts, here are the locations where you’ll most likely find the bugs:

  • Beneath porches
  • Between rocky structures
  • Under cement
  • In rock, wood, brush piles, or beneath bark
  • In rodent nests or animal burrows
  • In outdoor dog houses or kennels
  • In chicken coops

For more facts on kissing bugs, click here.

What to know about Chagas disease

The main risk associated with these insects is that they carry Chagas disease, which could be fatal for you or your pet.

According to AgriLife researchers, symptoms of the disease include the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Some people may not experience any symptoms at all, and about 25% of people they infect with Chagas develop serious chronic disease, researchers said.

Still, if you have been bitten by a kissing bug, it’s recommended to seek additional medical care for further testing.

To read the full report from AgriLife, click here.

Read also:

‘Kissing bug’ on the rise: Everything you need to know about dangerous infection

Just how deadly is the kissing bug, Chagas Disease?

Insect found in Texas could cause heart failure, stroke with bite

About the Author:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.