It’s gross, but it’s true – kissing bugs get their names from biting people where they kiss – near their lips. Because of this, I prefer to call these pests by their other name – the assassin bug.
Fortunately, we don’t have assassin bugs where I live, and that’s good news. These creatures are truly the stuff of nightmares.
They are found in the lower portions of the United States, including Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. For many years, they were found only in tropical areas, but as climate change has drastically changed our climate patterns, these pests are moving further and further north.
Let’s hope that I never see them in my backyard!
If you’ve been bitten by an assassin bug, you might be wondering what you can do to stop the pain and itching – and to prevent uncomfortable bites in the future.
Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take…
What Are Assassin Bugs?
Assassin bugs, also known as kissing bugs, are large black or dark brown bugs that have red dots on either side of their flat, broad backs. Usually, they’ll be about half an inch long, but not usually longer than an inch.
Technically, there are three types of assassin bugs, all of which are kind of lumped into the same category of “assassin bug.” The names for each are often used interchangeably for each other, which can also get confusing.
Ambush bugs are predators that lie in wait for prey on flowers. They blend in easily on the flowers.
Wheel bugs are the largest. These are from North America. They are gray and have distinctive, cog-like crests on their thoraxes. They often attack caterpillars and grasshoppers.
Then there’s the kissing bug. This cone-nosed creature is a parasite to humans and mammals. They have elongated heads but have no crest and also have black and orange markings.
These are the ones you want to watch out for when it comes to Chagas disease – but I’ll go into more detail on this below.
Assassin bugs make their nests in the woods, typically near rodents (they also enjoy sucking the blood of rodents, too – doesn’t that make you feel special?). In the late spring or early summer, assassin bugs will leave behind their nests, and seek out new mates and hiding spots.
They’ll come into your home or other places where humans like to hang out, looking for a dark place to stay during the day, before they venture out at night for food.
The worst part about assassin bugs? They bite. They hang out near mammalian prey and suck their blood.
They will bite repeatedly near the warmest areas of your body, like your eyes and mouth, leaving behind red, swollen, and itchy bites. Assassin bugs are quite similar to mosquitoes in that they feed on blood from people and animals.
Assassin bugs normally hide out during the day and emerge at night, but they can go for weeks without feeding. You probably won’t know you’ve been bitten until you see the itchy bites emerge.
That’s because these pests usually bite at night and you will usually sleep right through them. You might see up to fifteen bite marks in one area, or as few as just one or two. It can be tough to tell assassin bug bites apart from other kinds of bug bites.
Assassin Bug Life Cycle
Assassin bugs are fascinating creatures, and their life cycle is no less intriguing.
emails will lay their eggs in groups of up to 100 on leaves or stems. Once the nymphs hatch, they will go through five molts before reaching adulthood.
The nymphs look similar to the adults, but they are smaller and lack the wings. Nymphs primarily feed on small insects, but they will also eat nectar and plant sap.
Adults are predators, feeding on a variety of larger insects. They use their long, slender beaks to pierce their prey and inject them with venom. Assassin bugs typically live for around a year, during which time they will go through multiple generations.
How to Prevent Assassin Bug Bites
If you want to prevent wheel bugs from taking over your home and biting you, follow these tips.
Seal Up Your Home
Assassin bugs can strike both indoors and outside. However, I’m guessing you probably don’t want these pests coming inside your house. Therefore, you’ll want to take some steps to keep them out. For starters, seal up your home.
Make sure any cracks or crevices are sealed and airtight. This will help keep other kinds of pests out, too, so you’ll really be doing double-duty here.
You should also clear the perimeter around your home of leaves and get rid of any rodents’ nests. Any rocks or wood piles near your home should be removed, too.
If you have any lightbulbs illuminating the exterior of your home, swap them out for yellow bug-safe ones. This will help deter assassin bugs along with many other types of bugs. Keep screens on all of your doors and windows and make sure these are kept in good repair.
Don’t forget to seal up and inspect other areas of your home to guard against these beetles, either. These pests are common near chicken coops, so you’ll want to take measures to safeguard these areas, too.
Get Rid of Garbage
Assassin bugs occasionally feed on other insects, as well as rodents, so getting rid of trash in and around your home can get rid of potential prey species for assassin bugs – and consequently, the assassin bugs themselves.
Remove garbage and recycling regularly so that you don’t get ants or cockroaches, and clean up spills from food or other messages immediately. A clean home is far less attractive to an assassin bug than a messy one!
Clean Up Pet Areas
Kissing bugs may be likely to hang out anywhere mammals do, so make sure your pet’s areas are clean and sanitized. This includes beds, dishes, and other spots.
Don’t let your pet sleep in the bed if you’re worried about assassin bugs, either. Assassin bugs will happily hop from your pet to your bed, as they don’t mind sleeping under mattresses or in furniture near the bed.
Let your pets sleep indoors at night and try to prevent them from sleeping in your bedroom.
Cover Up When Working Outside
If you’re doing any kind of work outside, particularly in wooded or bushy areas, make sure your body is fully covered. Wear gloves along with long sleeves and pants. You can wear clothing that has been treated with an insect repellent, too, for extra insurance.
As much as I dislike this, sometimes you absolutely need to use insecticides to get rid of assassin bugs. For many people, the risk of an allergic reaction is far worse than the potential risks and drawbacks of using a pesticide.
Contact a local pest control to spray insecticide. Usually, they’ll use a pyrethroid spray to get rid of assassin bugs (this chemical is also used against other kinds of pests, like bed bugs).
Alleviating Assassin Bug Bites on Your Own
Here are some tips to help treat a bite if you suffer the misfortune of being bitten by an assassin bug…
Know the Signs
You might see assassin bug infestation signs before you notice a bite, but chances are, it’s the bite that’s going to attract your attention first. That said, you’ll want to be aware of the signs of infestation, too.
Often, you’ll be able to see the bugs themselves (perhaps on your pillow or mattress) but you might also see bloodstains on your linens, too.
If you’re bitten, you’ll likely have a bite that is painless but will swell up, looking much like a set of hives. The bites will likely itch for around one week. Although the bites are usually concentrated around your mouth or eyes, they can be anywhere on your body.
Wash the Bites
The first and most important thing you can do after being bitten by an assassin bug is to wash the bites as thoroughly as possible. Use warm water and soap, which will reduce the chances of you developing an infection.
Stop the Swelling
The best way to stop the swelling from an assassin bug bite is with a simple ice pack. This will cool the area down, and relieve any itchiness that the bites may be causing you, too.
Keep the Bite Protected
While the bite from the assassin bug is healing, you may want to cover it with a bit of antiseptic and a bandage. This will not only prevent you from brushing up against the irrigated area, but it will promote faster healing, too. Keep the area clean and change your bandage regularly.
Coconut oil has natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It can be applied as often as you’d like where you were bitten. It will protect against infection, will relieve swelling, and will smell great, too.
There are a few other natural substances you can use that offer the same benefits as coconut oil, too (though none of them smell quite as good, in my opinion). These include turmeric and neem (Indian lilac).
Give Garlic a Try
Garlic is another all-natural remedy you can use to prevent the likelihood of infection. It can also improve your condition in terms of overall pain relief.
After you’ve cleaned the area, use a paste made out of a few crushed garlic cloves. This should stop pain and itching, and you can keep it contained under a simple bandage.
Try Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion may be another effective treatment that can help with the itching. This can be applied as frequently as you’d like, as there are no side effects associated with its use. Most over-the-counter itch creams will get the job done, too.
Don’t Be Afraid of OTCs
I’m always a fan of natural remedies when they exist, but for something as itchy as an assassin bug bite, you may have to turn to some tried and true over-the-counter medicines.
If you’re in any amount of pain (uncommon, though not unheard of with assassin bug bites) you can take a painkiller like ibuprofen or aspirin.
You can also use a topical steroid where you were bitten, which should help reduce swelling and redness. If you think you might be having a mild allergic reaction or excessive itching, an antihistamine can work wonders, too.
Use Plantain Leaves
One surprising natural remedy for assassin bug bite is plantain. You can use any kind of plantain leaf for this, but narrow leaf plantains tend to work the best.
Cut a leaf from the plant, chew it into a paste, then put it on the bite. It will reduce swelling, pain, and itching.
Give Oatmeal a Try
Don’t eat it (although you certainly can, if you’re feeling hungry!) but instead, bathe in it. You can take an oatmeal bath which should help stop the itching and promote healing.
You can also hold a washcloth soaked in oatmeal on the itchy spot for up to fifteen minutes at a time or purchase a premade oatmeal powder.
Try Aloe Vera
If you’ve ever had a sunburn, you probably already have aloe vera on hand. It’s popular for pain relief, burns, and itching, and can help soothe any skin that has been punctured by an assassin bug bite.
Just cut a leaf off the plant and squeeze out the liquid, rubbing it over the wound. You can also buy aloe vera gel at most stores.
Try to avoid itching the bites to the best of your ability – I know, easier said than done! However, itching can open the door to infection and will only make the bites itchier. Try the methods listed above before you drive yourself crazy with the itchiness!
Can Assassin Bugs Be Beneficial?
Assassin bugs are predators that can help to control aphid and caterpillar populations in your garden. They get their name from their hunting style: they wait patiently for their prey to come close, then stab them with their long, sharp beaks.
Although they will eat other small insects, aphids and caterpillars (two common garden pests) are their favorite foods.
Assassin bugs are most active in the spring and summer months, when aphid and caterpillar populations are at their peak.
Because they are such effective predators, having a few assassin bugs around can help to keep aphid and caterpillar populations under control, saving your plants from damage.
Of course, you just need to keep them out of your house – and off your body!
Are Assassin Bug Bites Dangerous?
The good news about assassin bug bites is that they usually are not dangerous or life-threatening. There are two exceptions to this.
One is if you happen to have a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. If you do, you will likely experience symptoms such as extreme swelling, difficulty breathing, and swollen airways. Seek medical attention immediately.
Another problem with assassin bugs is that they can spread Chagas disease. This disease is a life-threatening ailment that can damage your vital organs and is fatal when left untreated.
If caught early, Chagas disease is curable and not serious, causing simple symptoms like fever and joint pain. However, if it is allowed to develop into a chronic phase, it can be fatal, usually causing heart problems.
If you think you’ve been bitten by an assassin bug, it’s a good idea to get yourself to the doctor’s office – even if you don’t know whether it’s infected or not. This will help rule out any secondary infection or issues that may arise as a result of you being bitten.
If your doctor suspects that you may have contracted Chagas disease from the bites, they can prescribe antiparasitic medications like nifurtimox and benznidazole.
Ultimately, assassin bug bites are relatively common, and they’re usually no big deal. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do everything in your power to avoid being bitten, though.
While the wheel bug is not considered to be aggressive, it will sting if it feels threatened. The pain of the sting has been described as being similar to that of a bee sting, though some people report that it is more intense.
In addition to the initial pain, the sting may also cause swelling and redness at the site.
Assassin bug bites usually last for about 24 hours and cause mild swelling and itching. In rare cases, the venom can cause an allergic reaction, so it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any severe symptoms.
An assassin bug bite looks like a small, red bump. The bump is usually surrounded by a reddish-purple halo, and it may be itchy or painful. In some cases, the bite may also cause a small blister.
Many people are surprised to learn that assassin bugs can grow quite large. The largest species of assassin bug can reach lengths of over three inches, with a body that is relatively slender and flat.
Chagas disease is a serious illness caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The parasite is spread by contact with the feces of certain insects, known as “triatomine bugs.”
These bugs are found in warm locations such as Mexico, Central America, and South America. Kissing bugs are the main creatures that spread this parasite.
Chagas disease is a serious health condition that can be transmitted to humans through the bite of a kissing bug. While all kissing bugs carry the parasites that cause Chagas disease, not all of them are infected with the disease itself.
The parasite tends to be more common in rural areas, where it can be found in the feces of animals like possums and armadillos. Once the parasite enters the human bloodstream, it can travel to different organs and cause a range of symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and headaches.
These steps should help you stay safe – and rest easy – knowing that assassin bug bites are not going to be in your future.
However, keep in mind I am not a doctor, so do NOT treat the information in this article as medical advice. Neither I nor this website and its owner shall be held responsible for any side-effects you may encounter as a result of applying the information given here.
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep, and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor. Learn more about Rebekah here.