Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: Is this the “kissing bug” recently described on television?

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Kissing Bug

Kissing Bug

Leaffooted Bug

Leaffooted Bug

A:  You are the second person to bring me one of these insects asking if it was the “kissing bug” seen on a recent television program.  In both instances, the insect was a leaffooted bug, Leptoglossus phyllopus. This insect is a minor pest of various crops, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and ornamentals landscape plants as well as citrus. Most of the problem on citrus involves early and mid-season oranges, tangerines, and satsumas, with injury usually occurring between early September and late November.  Since we are well into the fall season, most of you have been finding these insects on your citrus fruit.  Pecan is one of the other crops attacked causing a black pit and kernel spot of pecan. Nuts with black pit can drop prematurely.  The “kissing bug” is actually known as the eastern bloodsucking conenose, Triatoma sanguisuga. The eastern bloodsucking conenose looks quite different from the leaffooted bug and it is not a plant pest at all. Kissing bugs are members of a larger group known as assassin bugs. Assassin bugs are named for their habit of attacking and voraciously feeding on insects with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. In this way, assassin bugs can reduce pest insect populations, and are considered beneficial. What makes kissing bugs unusual is they require blood meals to survive and reproduce. These particular insects can also harbor Triatoma sanguisuga which is a vector of American trypanosomiasis (or Chagas Disease) in South America, a debilitating illness caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. This parasite has a complex life cycle, relying on both invertebrate vectors (such as the eastern bloodsucking conenose) and mammal hosts (such as humans, livestock and rats) to reproduce and spread. This disease is a problem in South and Central America and has been detected in the United States, but has not been found in Florida. For more complete information on both insects, look over the following University of Florida publications:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in1018; http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in229

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