Kissing Bugs

Diagnosis and Specialized Morphology

Triatominae are sometimes referred to as kissing bugs. Most members of this subfamily are characterized by:
1) elongate, nearly straight labium with flexible membranous connection between last two segments
2) antennal pedicel with 3 to 7 trichobothria in adults
3) head not constricted behind compound eyes
4) connexivum often membranous to allow for abdominal expansion during feeding


Taxonomic History

According to Lent and Wygodzinsky (1979), Triatominae is comprised of five tribes (Rhodniini, Cavernicolini, Bolboderini, Alberproseniini and Triatomini) containing about 14 genera and 111 species (140 species recognized by Galvao et al. 2003).


Natural History/Biology

Triatominae are primarily found in the New World where they are most diverse. Five species of Linshcosteus Distant are restricted to India, and seven species of Triatoma Laporte range from southern India and Burma to New Guinea (Schuh & Slater 1995). Many triatomines are vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas 1909), the causative agent of Chagas disease or American Trypanosomiasis that affects about 12 million people in Middle and South America (Beard et al. 2003). Twelve species of Triatominae in the genera Paratriatoma Berber and Triatoma Laporte occur in the United States (Henry & Froeschner 1988). They live mostly in nests of wood rats in the genus Neotoma Say and Ord, but are attracted to light and therefore human habitations at night. Transmission of Trypanosoma cruzi to pets and humans has been documented in several instances in the United States (Beard et al. 2003, Dorn et al. 2007), including one case of indigenous Chagas disease from California (Schiffler et al. 1984). In addition, bites of Triatominae in the southwestern United States are perceived as a problem due to the hypersensitive reactions of about 7% of humans (Ryckman 1985, Marshall et al. 1986, Klotz et al. 2006).

If you've found what you think is a member of Triatominae in or around your house in the United States, you can visit this CDC page to help determine which of the 11 species of Triatominae in the United States you may have found.


Check out our research of the subfamily here!



Beard et al. 2003.

Chagas, 1909.

Dorn et al. 2007.

Galvao et al. 2003.

Henry, Froeschner, 1988.

Lent, H., Wygodzinsky, P.W. 1979. Revision of the Triatominae (Hemiptera, Reduviidae), and their significance as vectors of Chagas' disease. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 163: 123-520.

Klotz et al. 2006.

Marshall et al. 1986.

Ryckman, 1985.

Schiffler et al. 1984.

Schuh, R.T., Slater, J.A. 1995. True Bugs of the World (Hemiptera: Heteroptera): Classification and Natural History. Comstock Pub. Associates, Ithaca. 336 pp.


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