How to get rid of kissing bugs? Start by taking steps to keep kissing bugs — one of the grossest pests — outside your home. If these pests get inside, spray insecticides to kill them.

Despite this insect’s nickname, you won’t want to pucker up to a kissing bug — unless you’re kissing it goodbye.

What are kissing bugs?

Also known as “assassin bugs,” these creatures feed on the blood of animals and humans — biting near the mouth, hence their name. Dark brown or black-colored with red or orange stripes, these insects can grow up to 1¼ inches long. They’re most active during the months of May through July, as this is their mating and nesting season.

Their scientific name? Triatomine. This means they can carry a parasite able to cause an illness known as Chagas disease. After biting you near your mouth, the kissing bug defecates. If the feces enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth, it can spread Chagas disease.

What is Chagas disease? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls Chagas a “neglected parasitic infection” that years later can cause life-threatening health problems, including heart disease.

Don’t worry, though. Transmission of Chagas disease is very rare in the U.S.

Nocturnal by nature, 11 species of triatomine bugs exist in Central America, South America, the United States, and Mexico. In the U.S., kissing bugs reside in 28 states, most notably Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

But if they’re hiding during the day, how can you expel them from your home? Let’s take a look at a few different ways to get rid of kissing bugs.

How to Get Rid of Kissing Bugs

Eliminating these pests can prove somewhat difficult, since they make themselves scarce during daytime hours. While hidden, they can build nests and lay eggs in your home’s cracks and crevices. Prevention is the best method of keeping out kissing bugs, but insecticides are also an option.

How to Get Rid of Kissing Bugs Naturally

Older homes are more susceptible to infestations due to fractures and holes that have developed over time. To safeguard your living spaces from these bugs, focus on exclusion methods. Caulk gaps around windows, walls, attics, crawlspaces, and doors, as well as in your roof and foundation.

You also can store piles of firewood and rocks away from your house and bag leaves for trash removal. Bringing pets inside at night, turning off outdoor lighting close to entryways, keeping areas clean, and installing screens also can protect your home from these invaders.

How to Kill Kissing Bugs With Insecticide

While there aren’t any pesticides specifically made to kill kissing bugs, insecticides composed of pyrethroid can work. Considered less harmful to wildlife, such as mammals and birds, these solutions are effective against various bugs. Spray the solution along baseboards, corners, window and door frames, pet areas, and anywhere else these kissing bugs may enter. Follow that up with the exclusion techniques mentioned earlier.

What to Do If You Find a Kissing Bug in Your House

Kissing bugs mostly spend their time under porches and sidewalks, in piles of leaves or stacks of wood, and in bird nests and animal dens. Even though kissing bugs can adapt to living indoors, here in the U.S., there isn’t much risk of finding them in your home because houses are built with plaster and other materials that effectively seal off entryways to all insects.

If they do happen to find their way inside, they’ll seek shelter underneath mattresses, in furniture cracks, or inside holes in walls — anywhere they have easy access to food come nightfall.

So, what should you do if you spot one in your home?

First, don’t panic. While it’s true these bugs bite pets and humans, the bites tend to be harmless. You may experience the same reaction you would from any other insect bite: itchiness, redness, and slight inflammation.

Secondly, do not squish it. Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you capture the suspect bug in a jar or other container. Fill the jar with rubbing alcohol or freeze it to preserve the specimen. Then, take the insect to your local extension service, health department, or university science lab for identification.

Note: When capturing a kissing bug, do not touch it with your bare hands. Chagas disease spreads through the kissing bug’s feces, which may have contaminated its body. Touching the bug can potentially soil your hands, and if the bug is infected and you touch your mouth, eyes, or an open wound, you could contract the illness.

SEE RELATED: Bites and Stings: The Worst Insects in the US

When to Call a Pest Control Professional

The presence of kissing bugs may also signal the presence of other pests, including rodents and birds. This calls for attention from local pest control professionals.

Not only can pest control experts tackle all of your pest issues using professional-grade treatments, but they can also help identify entry points you may have missed and suggest the best ways to keep intruders out.

Main Photo Credit: Glenn Seplak via Flickr / CC by 2.0