Kissing Bugs in Nebraska

by Kyle Koch and Kait Chapman

Updated July 2021

Established populations of the eastern bloodsucking conenose (Triatoma sanguisuga) a.k.a. the kissing bug were discovered in Richardson County, Nebraska in 2019. Kissing bugs have not been documented elsewhere in the state. 

Kissing bugs can pose a risk to public health by biting humans and potentially transmitting Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. While the risk of this is extremely low in Nebraska, people should be aware of this insect and what to do if they come across one. 

What Does a Kissing Bug Look Like?

Adult eastern bloodsucking conenoses are recognized by: 

  • Body about ¾ inches long 

  • Dark-colored, flattened bodies 

  • Cone-shaped head 

  • Sharp beak-like mouths 

  • Elbowed antennae 

  • Six reddish-orange spots on each side of their abdomens 

  • Pronotum black with reddish-orange to yellowish sides 

  • Reddish-orange projections near “neck”  

  • Distinctive orange-red to yellowish markings on wings 

Nymphal (immature) kissing bugs are smaller in size, lack wings, and may the lack reddish-orange spots located on the abdomen. There are many insects native to Nebraska that may resemble a kissing bug. If you find a bug, do not panic. Contact your local Extension office and submit pictures of the insect for proper identification.  


Kissing bugs hide during the daytime and come out during the night, often when people are sleeping. During the day, they will hide in cracks around the walls or ceilings of homes or under leaf litter and rocks outdoors. All kissing bug nymphs and adults feed on blood. Alternative hosts to humans include dogs and wild animals including rats, possums, raccoons, coyotes and other mammals. 

Chagas Disease

The risk of contracting Chagas disease from a kissing bug in the United States is low. Disease is transmitted by the kissing bug’s behavior of defecating (pooping) after they bite, typically around a person’s face. The disease-causing agent for Chagas disease, the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzimay be present within the feces. When a kissing bug defecates during or just after feeding, it may leave behind the parasite on the skin. People contract the disease by accidentally scratching or rubbing the parasite into the bite wound, or their eyes or mouth. In the United States, the eastern bloodsucking conenose does not typically defecate on its host immediately after feeding like many of the species native to Central America do, limiting disease transmission. 

Chagas disease has two important phases: Acute and Chronic. 

Acute Chagas disease occurs immediately after infections and can last for about two months. During this phase, parasites may be found in the circulating blood. This phase of infection is usually mild, and some may have no symptoms at all. Others may experience a fever or swelling around the bite site. 

Symptoms of acute Chagas disease can include (CDC): 

  • Fever 

  • Tiredness 

  • Body aches 

  • Headache 

  • Rash 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Vomiting 

Following the acute phase, an infected person may enter into a prolonged form of the disease called chronic Chagas disease. During this phase, people are often unaware of their infection and may remain without symptoms for life. However, an estimated 20–30% of infected people can develop severe conditions in this phase. These may include: 

  • Chronic heart problems, such as heart rhythm abnormalities or a dilated heart 

  • Chronic gastrointestinal problems 

What To Do If You Find a Kissing Bug

First, do not touch a kissing bug with your bare hands! The parasite that causes Chagas disease may be on the kissing bug’s body. Use plastic gloves or a container to collect the bug without directly touching it. Clean and sanitize all potentially contaminated surfaces with a bleach solution or alcohol.  

If you reside in Nebraska and know or suspect a kissing bug has bitten you or someone in your home, get the bug tested for the parasite. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Vector-Borne Disease Program will accept kissing bugs for identification (call 402-471-2937). If the bug is identified as a kissing bug, it will be forwarded to the CDC to be tested for the parasite that causes Chagas disease. However, they must have been found inside the home or be suspected of having bitten someone 

If you find what you believe is a kissing bug outside of your home and it is not suspected of biting anyone, you can submit pictures to your local Extension office or the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Insect Diagnostic Lab for identification: 

Kyle Koch 

Insect Diagnostician 


UNL Department of Entomology 

103 Entomology Hall 

Lincoln, NE 68583-0816 

Prevention and Management

Exclusion is key when it comes to preventing and managing kissing bugs: 

  • Seal cracks and crevices into the home with caulk 

  • Repair window and door screens 

  • Reduce clutter in the home 

  • Vacuum and clean to remove harborage areas inside the home 

  • Wild animals are common blood sources for kissing bugs, so remove any wild animal nests, piles of branches or wood, and trash to reduce wild animals near your house 

  • Kissing bugs are attracted to lights. If possible, use yard lights that are not close to your house.  Turn off lights on the outside of you house at night, if possible