Kiss of Misery - Kissing Bug in Action
The kissing bug or conenosed bug belongs to the order Hemiptera, suborder Heteroptera and family Reduviidae. Triatoma rubida is the most common species in Arizona. Their size ranges from 14-24 mm. Kissing bugs are primarily parasites of rodents, especially the wood rat (Neotoma albigula) living in the packrat's middens. Each nymphal instar requires a blood meal to molt.
Kissing bugs come out at night and are attracted to porch lights. At dawn they seek a dark place to hide, often entering houses. Once inside they will come out at night in search of a blood meal from a human or pet. Typically the stylet piercing is not felt due to an anesthetic saliva; Itching, redness, and swelling normally follow at the bite site. Multiple bites may lead to sensitization and systemic anaphylactic allergic reactions. The anesthetic and anti-coagulant proteins in the saliva are foreign causing the production of antibodies by the host. Kissing bugs may transmit the protozoan, Trypanosoma cruzi, which is introduced through feces rubbed into the bite.
In the pictures note the concave abdomen at the beginning and the expanded abdomen filled with blood at the end. Prior to feeding the kissing bug cleaned its antennae several times and then without warning inserted its stylet . The kissing bug continued to feed for 8 minutes until it was completely full. A special thanks to my friend and neighbor, University of Arizona Entomologist Robert (Bob) L. Smith for lending his arm for photos and then the unexpected blood meal given his susceptibility to an allergic reaction.