Bed bugs are not the only blood-feeding true bugs out there, but as of 2021, kissing bugs are not a concern in New York. We include them here because when kissing bugs and the primary disease they vector, Chagas disease, is in the news, then New Yorkers notice look-alikes including box elder bugs, stink bugs, assassin bugs, western conifer seed bugs, and others.
Kissing bugs are long, dark bugs, ¾ inches -1 ¼ inches (19-32mm.) with long legs and a very long proboscis (mouthpart) kept folded under its head when not feeding. Some have checkerboard markings around the side edge of the abdomen. Because they feed on vertebrate blood, it’s unfortunate these ‘true bugs’ known as kissing bugs look much like other, more beneficial, members of the assassin bug family.
In New York State, you don’t have to worry about encounters with kissing bugs, but be aware of their presence when you travel in the south and Latin America. So far, the very dangerous Chagas disease they can vector has yet to be common outside of those regions.
This video, created by Deep Look, will make you very grateful that kissing bugs are not a New York problem.
You probably don’t. It is unlikely you’ll encounter kissing bugs in the northeast as they have yet to become established here. Instead, you might see assassin bugs —very similar in appearance— a group of common beneficial insects that do not feed on blood.
With only rare sightings in our cooler climate, kissing bugs can be found throughout the south and the southwest where they tend to invade poor quality dwellings with openings or open windows and doors, and feed at night while residents are sleeping.
If, in the future, kissing bugs become common in the northeast, exclusion will prevent them from being where you sleep. There's no time like the present to take steps to keep them, and existing local pests, out of your home.
Until then, appreciate their cousins, the assassin bugs, for their role in reducing harmful insects.