Kissing bugs, triatoma protracta, are parasites of pack rats, living in their nests, and feeding on their blood, while the rat sleeps. Eggs are laid within the nest, and the kissing bug nymphs will also feed rat blood. Sooner or later, the pack rat will die, by predation most likely, and the dependent kissing bugs will not have anything to eat. Starvation forces them to leave the nest and seek a new host; this activity is most common at dusk, after prolonged hot spells. Being strong fliers, they are attracted to lights, but do not flutter around lights, like moths; they will land and walk the remaining distance. If a kissing bug enters your home, remember, it is there for food, and you are the target.
Kissing bugs appear to be attracted to heat and odor. People report finding them in their beds, basically waiting. It is customary for people that have a lot of kissing bugs, to take the sheets off, and check their beds before going to bed.
The name ‘kissing bug’ comes from reports, back in gold rush days, of people being bitten around the lips. This author has not seen that, and most reports of bites are on other body parts. This author was once bitten by one, on the foot. I never felt the bite, but the bite was prominent, and I’d categorize it as a nasty bite, large and really annoying. I tore the place apart looking for it and never found the bug, until…. it came back to get a second feeding a week or so later.
Below are images of adults and nymphs.
Specimens below collected by Paul Cooper, Jason Price, Heather Nordstrom.
Click on an image to enlarge it.
Kissing bug nymphs