While it is not exactly a jungle “out there” in the landscape, there are some occasionally encountered insects which can inflict pain. The kissing bug and the blood-sucking conenose are native insects which are best not physically encountered.
The native kissing bug, Triatoma sanguisuga, is part of the assassin bug family. This insect is commonly called a kissing bug because it targets the soft tissues around the mouth of mammals as a feeding site.
As if being in the assassin bug family is not bad enough for its image, this pest’s South American cousin is responsible for inoculating victims with Chagas disease. Chagas disease, a protozoan infection, has occurred in some western states but not Florida.
The bloodsucking conenose, in assassin bug family too, is found in north Florida. It is a dark brown, winged bug, 3/4 inch long, with the edges of its abdomen alternating in light and dark colors.
They have a slender, straight beak with piercing-sucking mouthparts. The antennae are inserted on the side of the head between the eyes and the end of the beak.
They are rarely seen during the day, instead hiding in leaf litter and other debris near their intended host. Birds apparently consider them quite tasty and are easy targets for avian predators.
Kissing bugs primarily feed at night on the blood of sleeping animals, such as raccoons and opossums which burrow in the vicinity.
Their life cycle varies considerably depending on temperature, humidity, and availability of hosts. Females lay one egg at a time, up to five eggs each day.
Problems arise when these insects encounter humans. If this creature enters a home or dwelling, its nocturnal habits make humans easy prey.
The bloodsucking conenose will enter into a home by crawling through cracks in the foundation, torn window screens, or other structural flaws or inadequacies. Many times they enter by simply clinging to a domestic pet or to the clothing of an unaware person. Once indoors, they are found in bedding, cracks in the floors and walls, or under furniture.
Most bites from conenose bugs are rarely felt. However, some can be quite painful and infection can occur if the wound is scratched and contaminated.
The assassin bug, the entomological cousin of the kissing bug, usually is encountered in foliage and has little inclination to enter homes. It is capable of delivering a nasty surprise to the unsuspecting gardeners who disturb this ambush predator.
The green leaves and pretty flowers are an ideal habitat for the assassin bug and the kissing bug to put the bite on ideal menu selections. This is something to keep in mind this spring when enjoying the panhandle Florida’s great outdoors.
To learn more about the assassin bug or the kissing bug, contact your UF/IFAS Extension Office.