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Everything You Need To Know About Assassin Bug Bites
You may have been looking into assassin bugs, after all, their name is very intriguing, and wondered does an assassin bug bite? The simple answer is yes. They bite for different reasons – some bite to feed and others will bite as a defensive mechanism when provoked. Either way, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of an assassin bug bite. Trust me.
For our purposes here, we will examine the bites in two sections: kissing bugs and all other species of assassin bugs. For ease, we’ll use the term assassin bugs to refer to all assassin bugs except for kissing bugs and we’ll use the term kissing bugs to refer only to (you probably guessed) kissing bugs. We do this for simplicity and also because the bite of the kissing bug is very different than that of all the other assassin bugs.
We are going to look at the main things you need to know about an assassin bug bite. First of all, we need to know how to recognize the bites and what are the associated symptoms. Then we will move on to whether or not assassin bug bites are harmful to humans and find out if they suck our blood. To finish we’ll talk about to prevent an assassin bug bite yourself or through the help of a professional.
The Symptoms of An Assassin Bug Bite
As we mentioned, all species of assassin bugs are unlikely to bite you unless provoked, except the kissing bugs. They do not seek out humans to bite and prefer to avoid us which is good news. The most common ways an average person will be bitten by an assassin bug is from an accidental encounter or through careless handling. Never risk handling an assassin bug if you can help it.
Assassin bugs are found all over the world so you can run into one almost anywhere. You are most likely to have an encounter outside in the garden. As beneficial garden insects, we like them because they eat the bugs that are harmful to our garden, but they themselves are not harmful to the garden. Some people can also have assassin bugs in their home but that would be much rarer.
If you are unlucky enough to be bitten by an assassin bug, you will probably know it. They are not stealth biters and you are likely to see them do it. If you don’t see them do it, or don’t get a good look at the bug that bit you, you can look for the assassin bug bite symptoms.
The symptoms of an assassin bug bite will vary from person to person. People with softer, more sensitive skin will usually react worse than people who have thicker skin. Chances are if you are one of those people who gets a mosquito bite that swells more than average, your reaction to the assassin bug bite will also be more severe. The assassin bug bites are often itchy like a mosquito bite as well.
The assassin bug bite occurs when the bug uses their piercing mouthpart to break your skin. This is the same thing they do to their prey. They inject a paralyzing toxin into their prey which also liquefies their insides. Then, they suck out the fluid. Luckily for us, the toxin if not harmful to humans. It’s not going to liquefy your insides, don’t worry. You’re not going to be temporarily paralyzed either. What you will be left with is a painful bite.
The assassin bug’s bite can range from a small dot that will be similar to a mosquito bite to a large, swollen lesion. You should be able to see the place where the skin was pierced with their mouthparts. Unlike mosquito bites, assassin bug bites are immediately painful. The pain is quite severe and would be at least as bad as a wasp or bee sting, but it is usually worse than that.
Assassin bug bites can become infected because the assassin bugs carry bacteria in their mouths. Swelling can also be caused by the infection of the bite. If this occurs or if you just want to be on the safe side you can consult a doctor. Most assassin bug bites (remember, we’re not talking about kissing bugs here) do not require a trip to the doctor.
Now, let’s see why we have separated the kissing bugs from other assassin bugs when it comes to their bites. There are a couple main differences in a kissing bug bite vs an assassin bug bite in terms of symptoms – pain and location of the bite site. The first is that you don’t feel it when they bite you. There is no intense, immediate pain. When the kissing bug bites its saliva will act as an anticoagulant and also numb the area so you barely feel the bite at all. People mostly report no pain even after the bite. The kissing bug bite is most likely to happen at night while you are sleeping. Because of this, their bites may be confused with those of the bedbug.
Another difference that we need to note in the location of the kissing bug bite. As we discussed, assassin bugs by when provoked or surprised. As a result, their bites are most likely to be your hands or feet (especially if you are walking in the garden without shoes). The kissing bug bite occurs almost exclusively on the face. The most common area to get a bite is around your mouth and to a lesser extent, your eyes. Makes sense that they got the name kissing bugs, doesn’t it?
The bites are your mouth will usually be in a cluster and are small red dots or bumps. They may be itchy. The experience is altogether unpleasant.
Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease
Along with the symptoms at the actual bite location, kissing bugs present another and more dangerous risk. Kissing bugs (not other assassin bugs) are carriers of Chagas disease. Chagas disease, also known as American Trypanosomiasis, can be life-threatening and is caused by a protozoan parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi.
The parasite is not transferred from the kissing bug bite itself but rather through tier feces. The bite, which is a break in the skin, is the opening for any fluids or feces that may enter due to the presence of the bug on your body. They leave traces of their feces behind. Once you have the bite and scratch the skin, this action can cause the feces to be spread around and there is a higher likelihood of the parasites finding a way into your bloodstream.
The symptoms of Chagas disease are long and vary from person to person. The disease can be cured if caught early. It’s also important to know that approximately 60% of kissing bugs carry the parasites that cause Chagas disease. So, just because you have been bitten, doesn’t mean you are necessarily infected. The best thing to do if you suspect or know you have kissing bug bites is to wash and disinfect the bite area immediately and then consult a doctor.
In the acute (beginning) phase, Chagas disease symptoms can be things like fever, fatigue, swelling of the injection site, headache, body ache, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, rash and swollen glands. Unfortunately, these are the same symptoms of a number of different medical problems. The one symptom of the bite of the kissing but that is somewhat unique is the swelling on the area around your eye. While this doesn’t occur in all cases is it definitely something to watch out for.
As the disease progresses, you can end up with heart, liver or spleen problems which can be fatal. This is not something to be taken lightly so if you suspect anything at all, go to the doctor. Even if it’s nothing, you’ll be glad you did. If you wait too long, the disease may progress too far. There is simple medication to treat and cure but it must be administered as close to the infection instance as possible and certainly within the acute phase.
Chagas Disease and Your Pets
If your pet is bitten by an assassin bug, they are likely to have a similar reaction to us. Pain and possibly swelling at the bite site. The bad news is that kissing bugs who bite your cat or dog may transfer the same parasites to cause Chagas disease. Yes, pets can get Chagas disease too.
The symptoms of Chagas disease in your dog in the acute (beginning) phase will be depression, lethargy, diarrhea, seizures, anemia, difficulty walking and swollen lymph nodes. They can also suffer from an enlarged spleen and an increased heart rate.
Younger dogs contract the acute form of Chagas whereas older dogs are more likely to suffer from the chronic form. Like in humans, if you notice a change in your dog’s behavior, head to the vet to be safe.
Cats can also get Chagas disease but it seems to work a little differently with them. They are more likely to be carriers of the disease rather than suffer from any of the acute or chronic effects. It rare cases Chagas disease can cause your cat to have convulsions or real-leg paralysis.
Are Assassin Bug Bites Harmful To Humans
As we have just covered, the kissing bug bite can absolutely be harmful to humans. The risk of Chagas alone makes it something you need to be aware of. Depending on your location, Chagas disease will be more or less common. If you only have the other species of assassin bugs in your area then you don’t need to worry about it unless you are traveling. The same goes for your pets.
Kissing bugs can be found in the Southern and Western United States, Central and South America. Incidents of Chagas disease are most common in South America. It is estimated that Chagas disease affects about 8 million people in North and South America. So it’s definitely out there.
We know that kissing bugs are bad but are the other species of assassin bugs bites harmful? The good news is no, they are not. There is a risk of infection but aside from that and the intense pain, the assassin bug bite should clear up on its own with no remaining side effects or symptoms.
Does An Assassin Bug Suck Blood?
There are many terrifying tales out there about assassin bugs, whose name is scary enough on its own. We know that they bite but do they also suck our blood? There is an easy way to settle this – kissing bugs do suck our blood whereas the other species of assassin bugs do not.
These seemingly evil bloodsuckers feed on the blood of humans as well as other warm-blooded animals, like our pets. You can see why it’s important to know the symptoms of Chagas disease in your pets as well. They are like mosquitoes, who also feed on blood and can transmit serious diseases like West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever.
It was thought that kissing bugs fed on blood exclusively but that has been disproved. They are now known to eat some plants as well. This was shown in a study where the kissing bugs were exposed to cherry tomatoes. When they ate the cherry tomatoes, they were more healthy. They were more hydrated, had more energy and lived longer. More energy and a long life? That means they suck more blood and around longer to do it. Comforting.
Perhaps the most terrifying part about kissing bugs and their bite is that only bite you during the night when you are sleeping. When you’re sleeping you’re stationary and make a much easier target. You will likely not feel the bite at all so you will not wake up and interrupt their meal. They feed until they’re full and then find a hiding place to wait out the daytime and start all over again.
As mentioned, they inject an anticoagulant as they bite you. This means that they can suck out the blood continuously without it clotting. I’m guessing it might be hard for you to sleep tonight with all the new information, right?
How To Prevent Assassin Bug Bites
Now that we know about the harm and pain an assassin can inflict it’s a good idea to take just a few steps to protect your home. Since assassin bugs are beneficial to your garden and only bite when frightened or provoked, you can prevent them quite easily without killing them or excluding them from the area. All you need to do is be careful. Wear shoes and very thick gloves as much as possible when working in the garden.
Getting assassin bugs, and more specifically kissing bugs, inside your home is a different story. If they are already present inside then you should use chemicals to kill them yourself or hire a pest control professional.
If you don’t currently have a problem with them inside, then you should do a few things around the house now to stop (or at least deter) them from ever coming in. Here are some things you can do yourself to assassin bug-proof your home
- Make sure all your windows and doors have screens. The screens must be completely free of tear, holes or gaps of any kind.
- Don’t leave doors open without screens for any longer than necessary.
- Install door guards under your doors so there is no gap between the bottom of the door and threshold.
- Reduce plants and debris around the exterior perimeter of your house.
- Purchase and install bug friendly outdoor lights. Assassin bugs are attracted to regular lights anti-insect lights with a more yellowish color are available.
- Use caulking to seal any cracks or crevices around your home. Pay special attention to the things that go from inside to outside like dryer vents and air conditioning returns. Make sure there’s no way in.
- Assassin bugs eat other bugs so make sure there are no other insects living in your home to attract them. Take out the garbage and recycling quickly.
All this work will help you sleep easier without the fear of the vampire kissing bugs. It’s also beneficial to keep out other insects so you’ll be helping to keep your home free of other pests too.
It’s a good thing you have now learned how dangerous the assassin bug bites are on humans and pets so you can now act appropriately. If you suspect kissing bugs, you can go to the doctor or vet quickly while Chagas disease, if contracted, is still curable.