A kiss in not a kiss if it is inflicted instead of offered, as is the case with one local species of assassin bug called the Western Conenose, Triatoma protracta. This 3/4-inch, brown-black nocturnal insect, whose wings form a distinctive "X" when folded over the abdomen, also goes by the name of the "kissing bug" or, as it is known in Latin America, "vinchuca."
The kissing bug label comes from the insect's ability to steal a blood meal by painlessly piercing the lips, eyelids or ears of a sleeping human victim. The real problem is that during the feeding process, the bug injects its saliva into the victim, which can result in anaphylactic shock to persons sensitive to the bite. In rare cases, an individual might contract Chagas disease, a leading cause of heart disease in Latin America, which is caused by a one-celled organism carried by 40 percent of the bugs in some areas of southern California.
Range and Habitat
Adult kissing bugs are most often encountered in summer and fall, and are readily attracted to lights. They tend to remain hidden during the day in vegetation or in cracks in floors and walls.
The Western Conenose bug reproduces one generation a year. Adults and nymphs live in the same habitat, usually the nest of the wood rat (Neotoma spp.).
Entrance into dwellings can be reduced by repairing damaged screens on windows and doors, placing barriers over open vents, and using non-white lights outdoors. Removal of wood rat nests near homes in more rural areas also will reduce the number of bugs.