Assassin bugs (Reduviidae), also commonly known as ‘kissing bugs,’ present a danger to humans and our canine companions. Once only a resident of the Middle Americas, due to warmer climates this insect has made its way to over half of the United States.
Assassin Bugs: Their Dangers And Deterrents
The threat they pose? Chagas disease. This disease is contracted by the bite of an assassin bug and is proven to be very serious. In this article, I will answer the following questions that most of us have regarding the assassin bug, such as:
- What do assassin bugs look like?
- Why are they called the ‘kissing bug’?
- What is their preferred habitat?
- What preventive measures can I take to stop them from entering my home?
- How can I treat an assassin bug bite?
- What are the symptoms of chagas disease?
- Is there a natural way to repel assassin bugs?
What do assassin bugs look like?
Their appearance can vary slightly. The photo above is a picture of the most common characteristics of an assassin bug. Other characteristics of the assassin bug: They can be dark brown or black with red or orange spots along the edge of their bodies.
Why are they called the ‘kissing bug’?
Their most common nickname, ‘the kissing bug,’ derives from the fact that their preferred area of the human body to bite is around a human’s mouth. This usually occurs while we are sleeping, as they are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale as we sleep. They are considered blood sucking insects, like ticks. In other words, they don’t just bite and go on their merry way. However, some people who have been bitten say they never even felt the first bite.
Assassin bugs will also bite other areas of the human body, because they’re attracted to our warmth. Another common place for them to bite is the spinal area.
What is their preferred habitat?
- They nest in wooded areas.
- If you have an outdoor pet, you will see them closer to your home or in areas where your outdoor pet hangs out. They will bite most warm blooded mammals.
- They are also attracted to light at night, much like June bugs. So, if you leave an outdoor light on in the evening, you’ll most likely see them. However, once they ‘hang out’ around that porch light, they will try to find a way into your home in search of a dark, cooler area in which they can hunt for prey. The assassin bug is a nocturnal hunter.
They can be found hiding in:
- Cracks in the floors
- Cracks or holes in the walls
- Holes in your mattress
- Any open spaces in your box springs
- Furniture (especially furniture closest to your bed)
What preventive measures can I take to prevent them from entering my home?
I researched the internet pretty well to answer this question. All the sources pretty much conclude the same.
- Seal any cracks around your home and inside your home
- Make sure there are no piles of debris around the outside of your home (such as a pile of leaves)
- Change your outside light bulbs to yellow light bulbs. Bugs of all kinds are less attracted to yellow bulbs
- Keep screens on all windows. Check screens often for any tears
How can I treat an assassin bug bite?
- Wash the bite with antibacterial soap to lower the risk of it becoming infected
- If the bite starts to itch, apply calamine lotion for relief
- Apply a wash cloth soaked in oatmeal to the area for 15 mins at a time for more itch relief
- Apply ice for swelling
- Take Benadryl once you are aware of a possible bite. This may prevent a reaction such as a rash.
What are the symptoms of Chagas disease?
Both humans and dogs can contract Chagas disease. The symptoms are as follows:
- Body aches
These symptoms can mimic symptoms of the flu. However, a telltale sign that you could have Chagas disease is swelling of the eyelids. Usually just one eyelid will be affected, not both. If you suspect you may have contracted this disease, please visit your doctor immediately! If left untreated, it can cause major damage to your heart, lungs, and spleen.
The symptoms of Chagas disease in dogs varies with the duration of infection:
- Acutely infected dogs typically have a fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged liver and/or spleen. This phase may go unnoticed by owners, particularly since the clinical signs tend to resolve with time.
- Dogs have no symptoms at all in the latent phase, which may last for several years.
- With chronic infection, however, dogs can develop a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. This may result in congestive heart failure. Even more shockingly, affected dogs may drop dead before developing any symptoms of heart disease.
Click HERE for complete information about Chagas disease symptoms in dogs and other valuable information for your canine companion.
Is there a natural way to repel assassin bugs?
In my research, I found that the most common way to repel them (or be rid of them altogether) is to call your local exterminator. BUT, if you’re anything like me, you want a repellent without chemicals. So, I searched high and low looking for a way to naturally repel them, using zero chemicals whatsoever.
I finally came across one!
Here is an excellent all natural repellent that you can use on your clothing and skin to prevent being bitten.
- 1 bottle of organic lemon eucalyptus essential oil
- 1 bottle of organic sunflower oil
- 1 cobalt blue or amber glass bottle with spray top
- Fill glass bottle with the organic sunflower oil. This is the carrier oil which dilutes the essential oil so that it is non-irritating to the skin.
- Then add 10-25 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil, depending on the size of your bottle. For example, use 10 drops for every 8oz of sunflower carrier oil. If you choose to make a larger batch, simply add more drops. Ideally you want 1 part Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil for every 10 parts sunflower oil.
- Close bottle tightly and shake well to blend oils.
- The repellent can now be sprayed on clothing and skin to repel insects.
- Be sure to store the bottle in a cool and dark place, because sunlight can denature the beneficial properties of the oils.
- Also it is important to use only under adult supervision and keep out of children’s reach. Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil is a strong menthol-like oil that can cause irritation and a burning sensation if it comes into contact with eyes.
The Reaper Files shows a video of everything we need to know about assassin bugs:
If you have an all natural repellent for assassin bugs that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you! Tell me in the comment section below.
Check out these other great articles on how to naturally repel insects this summer:
- 5 Natural Tick Repellents to Get Rid of Ticks NOW
- 3 Homemade Mosquito Repellents
- How to Get Rid of Flies Naturally