How To Tell Stink Bugs & Kissing Bugs Apart
There are about 10 species of kissing bugs found in the U.S., with two of the more common being the conenose bug, Triatoma sanguisuga (LeConte), and the western bloodsucking conenose bug, Triatoma protracta (Uhler).
There are many species of stink bugs, but the one most likely to become a nuisance is the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB).
Do They Bite?
Both BMSBs and kissing bugs have piercing/sucking mouthparts, but only kissing bugs bite people, pets, and other animals.
Both of these insects develop by changing from eggs, to nymphs, and then to adults. Adults have well developed wings and are strong fliers, but the immature nymphs of both insects are wingless.
BMSBs have a shield shaped body that is about ½ - ⅝ inches long. They are mottled brown, grey and light black in color, and they have white segments on their antennae. They have two pairs of wings that are held flat over their back, and the outer edge of their abdomen is exposed since their wings do not completely cover their body. Their head is blunt and less elongated than the kissing bug’s head.
Kissing bugs are commonly called conenose bugs because the shape of their cone-shaped heads. These insects are about ¾ - 1 inch long, are dark brown or black in color, and some species have red, yellow or tan markings on the abdomen. Kissing bug legs are long and thin, and their mouthparts extend well beyond their heads.
BMSBs prefer to feed on soybeans and fruit, and have an affinity for apple, citrus, and peach fruit trees. Stink bugs also feed on the leaves of many ornamental plants.
Kissing bugs feed exclusively on the blood they get from their vertebrate host animals. Some of their food sources are wild and domestic animals such as:
Biology & Life Cycle
As mentioned above, BMSBs develop through three life stages – eggs, nymphs and adults.
The life cycle of BMSBs generally involves adults actively mating, reproducing and feeding during the months of spring through late Fall. However, this insect is also very active prior to the onset of cold winter weather as they seek shelter to spend the winter in a dormant phase known as diapause.
BMSBs may overwinter in many places, some of which include outdoor debris piles, dead trees and protected areas such as:
It is important to note that entering into diapause may not end their season of activity. If the weather warms up for long enough, indoor overwintering stink bugs might be misled into thinking it’s time to become active again.
When this happens, homeowners are likely to see BMSBs flying around windows, doors, and other sources of light in hopes of making their way outdoors.
Kissing bugs like to live near nests or resting areas of their hosts. These bugs may reside inside, but usually live outdoors.
Typical outdoor locations include:
Underneath piles of rocks, wood, brush and tree bark.
These insects emerge from their daytime locations to take a blood meal during the night. They prefer to bite exposed skin, and some species of kissing bugs favor biting around a person’s face or close to the lips.
Bites to people are more or less without pain, and usually does not wake a person who is asleep. Other bite sites are hands, arms, and feet.
BMSBs are found where their preferred foods are grown in approximately 41 states.
Kissing bugs are generally found in the southern, southeastern, and southwestern states.
Damage & Medical Importance for Stink Bugs vs. Kissing Bugs
Stink bugs that feed on fruit causes a distortion of the fruit known as “cat facing.” This renders the damaged fruit worthless, or worth much less than standard market prices.
As mentioned above, BMSBs also feed on soybeans and their feeding can dramatically reduce the yield of that crop. For home and building owners, BMSBs become nuisances when they begin to seek shelter.
Kissing Bugs & Chagas Disease
Kissing Bugs can transmit Chagas disease, an emerging vector borne disease in the U.S and parts of Central and South America.
During or soon after a kissing bug takes a blood meal, the insect also defecates. A person who rubs the feces into a break in the skin, swallows kissing bug feces, or rubs feces into the eyes may become infected with the disease.
Prevention and Control
Prevention of both BMSBs and kissing bugs are quite similar. Seal all entry points that might allow them to get inside, and minimize their available outdoor habitat. Also, removing clutter indoors is helpful, as it reduces the areas where they can go unseen.
While building construction and removal of habitat is valuable, sometimes that is not enough for your pest issues.
In such circumstances, contact your Orkin for a free inspection. They will form a science-based prevention and control program for your property.
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