Kissing bugs are true bugs. They’re a subfamily called Triatominae and are the sole bloodsuckers in the family Reduviidae.
The rest of the members for this sect are predator bugs. There are about 130 species in the subfamily, and they are all dangerous to people and animals alike.
Kissing bugs aka Triatomines go through an almost complete transformation before becoming adults. Eggs are laid around summertime and take nearly two months to hatch.
It molts five times, feeding heavily between each one, and as it grows, it changes both in size and color. By the time it reaches adulthood in the spring, it looks almost completely different from its first instar nymph form.
Kissing Bugs Bite
Kissing bugs are dangerous because they bite and draw blood from their victims. For people who are allergic to bug bites, they can experience anaphylaxis if bitten. Also, people and animals can get Chagas disease if bitten by the bugs.
When the bug bites, they defecate, and their feces can get plastered into the affected area, or into an open wound like a scratch. It can also be transmitted to the facial area where it’s absorbed into the body via the eyes and mouth by way of the mucous membranes of these body parts.
While this is disgusting, it’s not the feces that causes the disease, not directly. It’s the parasite hiding inside the feces. It gets into the bloodstream and can cause serious problems with a person’s heart or gastrointestinal tract.
While there’s no preventative medicine, no vaccine, for the disease, there is a cure — if caught in time. The cure is not to get bitten in the first place, and the only way to avoid such is to not have the bugs around.
How to Get Rid of Kissing Bugs Naturally
The following are nine of the best ways to get rid of the bugs while being eco-friendly.
1. Clear Out Wood and Rock Piles
Piles of rock and wood should be kept well away from your house and other buildings.
These are great places for the bugs to conceal themselves during the day and can help them get into your house. Bush piles should be gotten rid of as soon as possible for the same reason.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
In the battle against kissing bugs, it’s safer to use the food-grade version of this silica-based powder.
This is because you’ll be applying it to places around your home and garden where your pets have access. Your pets could inhale it or even eat it, and the food-grade version is rated safe for pets.
If purchasing for organic gardening use only, the regular OMRI listed version is just fine. Follow the usage instructions on the package.
Diatomaceous earth is mildly abrasive so it’s great against the kissing bugs because they’re soft-bodied. This means when they try walking on the powder, it will do a great deal of damage to them.
3. Bottle Trap
Now, this is a neat trick. Take a bottle, preferably one big enough to fit an electric candle in or bigger.
Keep the top. Add strips of non-stick tape vertically so the bugs can climb it; they can fly but prefer to walk. Kissing bugs are attracted to light. Put the light inside and turn it on.
Put the top back on upside down, creating a funnel. At nights the bugs will be drawn to the light and climb inside the bottle where they can’t climb back out.
4. Essential Oils
Oils won’t kill the bugs, but they will deter them.
Mix a couple of drops of a strong essential oil like mint or tea tree with water in a spray bottle and apply liberally everywhere you see kissing bugs congregating.
Also, use in the garden and on entry points into your homes like window and door sills.
Another great and natural kissing bug control method, Pyrethrin is an organic insecticide derived from mums.
It has proven to be fatal to kissing bugs by targeting their nervous system. They lose control of their body and eventually become paralyzed.
Mix with water and spray liberally on the bugs themselves. Pyrethrin is safe to use in organic gardening and around pets.
6. Shiny Container Trap
Kissing bugs like shiny things at night so this one is a sure-fire way to kill them. Partially fill a shiny container with soapy water. The best to use are trays like bread pans or turkey pans.
Place this in a warm dark place where you’ve seen kissing bugs and when night falls, turn on a lamp that will shine on the tray. The bugs will fall in and suffocate in the water trying to reach for the light.
7. Neem Oil
This oil works on all stages of the bug from egg to adult, as well as on other bad bugs.
Simply coat them with the oil using a spray made with a few drops of neem oil and water.
You can also use it as a deterrent by spraying it everywhere the bugs gather at night.
8. Garlic Spray
This is more of a repellant than a way to kill kissing bugs.
The smell of the spray, made from fresh garlic bulbs, water, and organic liquid soap, is so strong the bugs have to leave the area.
Spray your plants and everywhere the bugs can get into your home.
9. Bug Zapper
A solar-powered bug zapper can be used inside or out. The light doesn’t produce heat, but it does attract the kissing bugs so they get shocked on contact.
10. Seal Cracks and Crevices
Last but not least, this is a vital step to ensure kissing bugs don’t infest your home.
Seal of every crack and crevice in your home, including the foundation and any pipes or conduits going outside.
Use heavy-duty materials or the bugs will still be able to get in. Fine screens on the windows and caulk in the cracks are just two ways you can do this.
Kissing bugs might have a cute name, but they are anything but. They pose a serious health risk to you and your loved ones.
You must take measures as soon as you see one, drastic ones, to keep everyone safe.