Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kissing Bug and Chagas Disease in Texas

The Kissing Bug and Chagas Disease has received significant attention by the news media. Although this disease has little to do with horticulture, it is worth mentioning to increase public awareness and because gardeners are more aware of insects around their gardens.
Chagas Disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a inflammatory, infectious disease cause by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. The protozoan is transmitted by the kissing bug within the genus Triatoma sp. and family Reduviidae. There are three species of kissing bugs found in Texas (see photo). The kissing bug transmits the protozoan by biting then subsequently defecating near the site of the bite. The disease affects humans and other mammals. There are multiple symptoms of Chagas Disease. Find out more at the Center for Disease Control and the Mayo Clinic. 

Preventing exposure to the insect is an important step to disease prevention. It important to take steps to controlling the insect in and around your home. Eliminating habitat for the kissing bug is first step to preventing exposure to the insect and disease. Destroy trash and debris piles, bird and animal nests and remove animal burrows. Control rodents and other animal pest around the home. Inspect your home and seal places that pest could enter your home. Consider using a licensed, qualified pest control professional to treat the home and assist with other integrated pest management strategies.

There are numerous resources available by Texas A&M and other governmental agencies. The Texas A&M Veterinarian and Biomedical Science Department has created a website to assist with understanding the issue and identification of the insect. Visit the site for more information http://kissingbug.tamu.edu/

Other resources:

Insects in the City (Extension Urban Entomology)
Texas Department of State Health Services
Interactive Map of kissing bug occurrence in Texas

Written by Greg Church, Ph.D, Horticulture Agent