Assassin bugs are a member of the Reduviidae class of insects that includes thousands of species, such as the Zelus, wheel bug, and the kissing bug. The kissing bug is the insect that most commonly affects humans.
While assassin bugs can be very beneficial to gardeners, they cause serious health issues when they bite humans. It’s great to keep them in your garden, but equally important to protect your home from the kissing bug.
In this article, we help you understand what assassin bugs are, how they help the ecosystem, the dangers they pose to humans, and how you can protect your home from them.
What is an Assassin Bug?
Assassin bugs, also called the kissing bug, are a type of predator insect that feeds on smaller insects, such as bugs, flies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and aphids. They feed on the blood of insects and even humans, but they do have their benefits.
Although kissing bugs are mostly found in South American and the southern part of the United States, they are increasingly being discovered in the north. Unfortunately, assassin bugs are not harmless. They can cause several medical issues as well as pain and discomfort.
What do Assassin Bugs Look Like?
Kissing bugs range from small and red to large and brown, depending on the species. Kissing bugs are brown with red or orange stripes and can be as small as your thumbnail or as big as 1 ½” long.
The Zelus bug can be brown and green, red and black, and a few other color combinations. They are also long and slim and almost resemble spiders or short and stout like the kissing bug.
The wheel bug is one of the most distinctive assassin bugs. It gets its name from the crest on its thorax.
Are Assassin Bugs Dangerous?
Assassin bugs are one of the insects responsible for Chagas disease. It carries a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi which is in their feces. When a kissing bug bites you, it defecates, and its feces carries Trypanosoma cruzi, which enters your blood stream from the bug’s bite.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “around 8 million people in Mexico, Central American, and South America have Chagas disease and most people are unaware they’re infected.” Chagas disease does occur in the southern part of the United States, but it’s not as prevalent as it is in Central and Southern America.
Risks of Assassin Bug Bite
Chagas disease may cause fever, fatigue, pain in the muscle and joints, headache or migraines, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, Chagas may not present any noticeable side effects, and this can be particularly risky since Chagas can cause death if it goes untreated. If you or a loved one has been bitten by an assassin bug, you should talk with your doctor about being tested for Chagas.
The bite from a kissing bug can be very painful. People are most commonly bitten next to their lips, which is how the bugs got the nickname “kissing bug.” A bite may cause a rash, inflammation, and pain near the bite. In rare cases, kissing bugs cause an allergic reaction including anaphylactic shock – a life-threatening allergic reaction.
How to Treat Assassin Bug Bites
If you suspect a severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. The common symptoms of anaphylaxis are trouble breathing, elevated pulse, swelling where the bite is and swelling in the face or throat, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness or fainting.
For a bite from an assassin bug, you can use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin. Make sure you wash the area with antibacterial soap to prevent infection and use an anti-itch cream, spray, or powder to reduce irritation.
If you suspect Chagas, you should speak with your doctor. It may take time and several tests to detect the parasite that causes Chagas.
How Do I Know if I have Kissing Bugs?
The signs of kissing bugs are similar to the signs of bed bugs. You’ll see small bloodstains on sheets and pillows, and you can find the bugs hiding in your pillowcases and mattresses. Moreover, you will find bites in clusters mostly around your mouth, but they can occur on other parts of your body.
How Can I Get Rid of Assassin Bugs?
The first thing you need to do is decide if you want to treat your entire yard and home for assassin bugs or just treat your home. If you have a farm or garden, you may not want to treat your yard for kissing bugs because they contribute greatly to keeping harmful insects from your garden and do not harm your garden or crops themselves.
If you want to treat your home for kissing bugs, you need a home safe insecticide that you can spray in the cracks and crevices inside your home. Assassin bugs like small, tight, dark spaces, so you’ll have to spray where walls connect and any small open spaces in your home.
Treating your yard for assassin bugs is a little more complicated. You’ll need to spread Bifenthrin insecticide granules through your yard, then spray an insecticide over the granules. Make sure you choose an insecticide that is safe for grass and plants but kills multiple types of bugs.
You may also want to consider hiring a professional exterminator to get rid of kissing bugs. They can be hard to find and difficult to get rid of completely.
Preventing Assassin Bugs
To keep kissing bugs out of your home, you should seal cracks and holes that could serve as entries into your home; this includes around windows, doors, and places where walls meet. Also, clean and declutter your home regularly because they like to hide where you and you’re your pets sleep and where other bugs are present in your home.
Use minimal lighting close to your home. Insects are attracted to lights, and if you have a lot of lighting around your home, assassin bugs will be attracted to the insects gathering around your lights. Moreover, a bug zapper is excellent for preventing the number of insects that enter your home.
If you have wood or woodpiles near your home, move them as far away from your home as you can. Assassin bugs are attracted to the shelter and food sources wood piles can offer them.
Natural Remedies for Assassin Bugs
Several home remedies can repel or kill kissing bugs if you want to try something less harsh before using insecticides or an exterminator. This option is also great if you have pets or children in your home.
The first remedy is a combination of sunflower oil, eucalyptus oil, and water. Spray the mixture around the edges of walls, doors, and windows inside your home as well as on your sofas and beds. This spray is great as bug repellent for your skin too.
An indoor bug zapper is another great and safe way to get rid of assassin bugs and any other insects in your home. Although, they are not particularly safe around children, so you’ll need to put it out of reach.
Assassin bugs are a big concern for those who can be affected by them because they are responsible for serious health issues. Even though they serve a great purpose, you do not want them in your home. Let’s revisit the factors surrounding kissing bugs:
- Assassin bugs are responsible for killing grasshoppers, aphids, caterpillars and other insects that harm your plants.
- They may inject a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas disease a potentially life-threatening condition that affects millions of people.
- Calamine and other anti-itch lotion can be used to relieve the pain and irritation from a kissing bug bite.
- If you suspect a serious allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.
- You can prevent kissing bugs by sealing up entries in your home with calk or other sealant and by keeping your home and yard clear of debris that attracts insects.
- You need to use Bifen granules and an insecticide spray or hire an exterminator to get rid of them in your yard.
- A spray mixed with sunflower and eucalyptus oil is a great home remedy for rebelling assassin bugs and other insects.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Chagas Disease