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Class Insecta
Order Hemiptera

Family Reduviidae

Kissing bugs, Assassin bugs, and Bed bugs

Kissing bugs, a blood-sucking insect very common to the southwestern part of the U.S., are also known by the common names conenose bug or walapai tiger. In taxonomic jargon, the common species is Triatoma rubida, but three other species are known from southern Arizona, T. protracta, T. recurva and T. indictiva. The kissing bug is normally a resident of packrat dens, but in other habitats will use such hosts as opossums, armadillos and other assorted rodents, bats, etc. As long as the host is available, the kissing bug normally stays with the residents. Thus if homeowners try to eliminate packrat nests, but fail to then deal with the bugs, rest assured the bugs will find the next readily available blood meal, generally that homeowner. Complete cleanup of the nest site, removal of all plant materials, and a thorough inspection of the disturbed nest site to find and remove resident kissing bugs is imperative for management of the potential problem bugs.

The female kissing bug lays pearly white subconical eggs singly in a habitat near its food source. These eggs hatch in from 10-30 days into a small soft-bodied nymph (similar in shape to adults but lacking wings and size) that soon will be ready for a blood meal. There are five nymphal stages, each requiring at least one full blood meal, commonly several feedings being the norm, to stimulate molting to the next growth stage. Completion of growth from egg to adult usually takes 1-2 years.

In Arizona, the activity period of adult triatomes is usually in May and June, coinciding with high nighttime temperatures in the 70's and low humidity. A second activity period may be noted in September when conditions again are similar to our early summer. This activity corresponds to new adults leaving their juvenile home and seeking mates and a new host situation. If a kissing bug does enter a home and conditions are right for reproduction, the people may encounter these bugs any month of the year. Also incidental contact with kissing bugs can occur during the other summer months, but their activity is lower then. The adult emigrants, active at night, will fly a bit, and are attracted to lights, whether outside on a porch or merely shining through a window. One good way to manage populations is to inspect your house by the windows before going to bed, for the bugs may be siting on the house then. During the day, the bugs seek dark shelters, so inspect beneath flower pots or other potential hiding places near the home. The bugs are flat and can enter a home through narrow openings, so good home maintenance around doors and windows is necessary to prevent entry.

If a kissing bug does get into the house, it will become active once it gets dark, and will seek out a host. Once it has bitten someone, the bug will not venture too far away, many times found between the bed frame and springs or mattress. This also will be the area a female will deposit her eggs, so check the sheets, etc. and do thorough vacuuming in the bedroom during this season. Just because you have been bitten once, or you have found an adult in your home, it does not indicate you have an infestation. A concentrated search is the most effective means of dealing with these insects, not a pesticide drenching of your home. Kissing bugs do not generally work beneath sheets or pajamas to feed on a host, preferring naked, exposed skin. This is the reason behind the name kissing bug, since the face is normally exposed during sleep. Use of mosquito netting during peak activity periods of the kissing bug may prove an effective deterrent.

Kissing bugs, being blood feeders and closely associated with humans, are sometimes vectors of Chagas' disease, known to occur in Mexico to South America. All species of kissing bugs may harbor the pathogen, Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of this disease. Transmission of the pathogen is through the kissing bug feces that is deposited near the feeding sight and later rubbed into the itchy wound site by the victim. The four species of Triatoma found in Arizona, due to their behavior of defecating away from their feeding site, have never been implicated in transmitting this pathogen.

The bite of the kissing bug usually is painless, because the mouthparts are very sharp and big enough for a only single blood cell to flow through. Most people never know they have been bitten, and the results may simply be a welt like a mosquito bite. Some people react more adversely, developing hives or in extreme cases, experiencing an allergic reaction resulting in an anaphylactic response. People being bitten a lot may develop this more adverse response to the bites over time and should consult a physician for proper care.

To reiterate, proper maintenance around the house is the most effective measure for preventing these bugs from getting into the home. Do not think that eliminating packrat nests will solve your problem, for there is a never-ending population of these rodents in our desert. If you do catch a rat, make sure you also deal with their home and remove the kissing bugs in residence. Check outside late at night to see if any bugs have come to your house, or check dark, moist habitats during the day for any hiding bugs. Mechanical control is the most effective, efficient and environmentally sound method of management. If you are bitten, check closely the next day around your bed and other hiding spots in your bedroom for the culprit and remove it when found. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can spray and solve your problems the easy way. Dealing with insects of any kind means effort for success.

Assassin Bug, common name for a long-legged predatory insect that stalks other insects. They are found throughout the world with over 135 recognized species in North America. Most species of assassin bugs are considered beneficial because they help control insect pests.

The adult assassin bug is relatively large, usually 11 to 37 mm (0.5 to 1.5 in) in length. As with most true bugs, it has thickened forewings with membranous tips for handling prey. When at rest, the extended, segmented beak can be folded back underneath its body. Its folded wings overlap, giving the back a characteristic shape. Adults are commonly black, reddish, or brown, with long, slender legs, a narrow head, and round, beady eyes. Some species have sharp barbs on their forelegs to prevent prey from escaping.

All assassin bug species are predatory, primarily feeding on caterpillars and other insects. The assassin bug uses its needlelike beak to impale prey. It then injects a venom that both paralyzes and partially digests the prey. The body contents of the victim liquefy and are sucked out with the assassin bug's straw-like mouth parts. A few species, like the western bloodsucking conenose, commonly bite humans and other mammals. These bloodsucking species are sometimes called kissing bugs because they are attracted to exposed tender flesh, such as the face and lips of sleeping humans. Even species that prey only on insects can inflict painful bites on humans with inflammations that can persist for several days.

Eggs are laid openly in clusters on plants. The eggs of some species have spines or elaborately sculptured surfaces. They hatch into a partially developed larval form called a nymph. Nymphs are similar in form to adults of the same species, except that they are wingless, smaller, and often different in color.

One of the most common species is the leafhopper assassin bug. Adults are 1.5 cm (0.6 in) long and brown and reddish colored. A distinctive subgroup of assassin bugs are the thread-legged bugs, which have an elongated thorax (middle segment) and a slender body and legs. They are often brownish and resemble walking-stick insects.

Class Insecta
Order Hemiptera

Family Cimicidae

Bed bugs

Bed bugs were once a common public health pest worldwide, which declined in incidence through the mid 20th century. Recently however, bed bugs have undergone a dramatic resurgence and worldwide there are reports of increasing numbers of infestations.

Bed bugs are wingless insects, roughly oval in shape, 4-5mm long when fully grown, and are fast runners. They are rust brown in color and change to a deeper red brown following a blood meal. Bed bugs are dorsoventrally flattened and being thin means that they can hide in narrow cracks and crevices, making detection often very difficult.

The two main species that bite humans include the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, and the tropical bed bug, Cimex hemipterus.

There are five juvenile stages known as nymphs, which are miniature versions of the adults in appearance. Each nymphal stage requires at least one blood meal to molt to the next stage and it takes 5-10 minutes for complete engorgement to occur. The entire nymphal development takes 6-8 weeks, while the adult bed bugs can live on average for 6-12 months. All nymphal stages and adults of both sexes require blood for nutrition and development. After mating, each female lays 2-3 eggs a day throughout her lifespan. The cream colored eggs (1mm in length) are cemented on rough surfaces of hiding places, and will hatch within around 10 days at room temperature, but longer in cooler conditions.

The mouthparts of bed bugs are especially adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood. Like most blood sucking arthropods, they inject saliva during feeding, which has anticoagulant properties. Bed bugs respond to the warmth and carbon dioxide of a host and quickly locate a suitable feeding site. They tend not to live on humans and the only contact is for a blood meal. Most blood feeding occurs at night, and they generally seek shelter during the day and become inactive while digesting the blood meal. However, bed bugs are opportunistic and will bite in the day especially if starved for some time. They can survive for long periods without feeding. While their preferred host is human, they will feed on wide variety of other warm-blooded animals including rodents, rabbits, bats, and even birds.

Being a cryptic species, bed bugs shelter in a variety of dark locations, mostly close to where people sleep. These include under mattresses, floorboards, paintings and carpets, behind skirting, in various cracks and crevices of walls, within bed frames and other furniture, and behind loose wallpaper. Bed bugs tend to stay in close contact with each other and heavy infestations are accompanied by a distinctive sweet sickly smell. Blood spotting on mattresses and nearby furnishings is often a tell tale sign of an infestation.

Bed bugs are one of the great travelers of the world and are readily transported via luggage, clothing, bedding and furniture. As such, they have a worldwide distribution.