There shouldn’t have been any kissing bugs under the mistletoe, or anywhere else in Ohioans’ homes, during the past holiday season, OARDC scientists said in a Dec. 23 press release.
Ohio has only one kissing bug species out of a dozen that live in the U.S., said Peter Piermarini, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology. Called Triatoma sanguisuga (pictured), it lives mainly in the state’s southern counties, mostly in forests near animal nests and — unlike, say, stink bugs — doesn’t invade houses in fall and winter.
Kissing bugs — so named because they sometimes bite their victims near the mouth to suck their blood — have been in the news in recent months due to fear of them spreading Chagas disease. The tropical parasitic illness has been showing up more and more in the U.S. South and Southwest.
“Chagas disease is not an immediate health concern for the vast majority of the U.S., especially in the Midwest.”—Peter Piermarini
Cases of mistaken identity
- OARDC scientist Dave Shetlar, professor in the Department of Entomology, said he took a number of calls about possible kissing bugs in people’s homes in December.
- But they were cases of mistaken identity, he said. The bugs instead were common cold-weather home invaders such as stink bugs, boxelder bugs and leaf-footed bugs, such as the western conifer-seed bug. None of them carry Chagas disease; only kissing bugs carry it.
- “The World Health Organization classifies Chagas disease as a neglected tropical disease, so it’s great that the public is becoming more aware of it,” Piermarini said. “But it’s not an immediate health concern for the vast majority of the U.S., especially in the Midwest.”
- To contact the scientists: Peter Piermarini at email@example.com; Dave Shetlar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo: Kansas Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org.)