This Deadly ‘Kissing Bug’ Grossly Gorges on Human Blood

While every species the world loses is tragic, some species would let us sleep just a bit easier if they went the way of the dodo. The kissing bug, for example, sounds innocuous enough, but is truly the stuff of waking nightmares. In the below video from PBS’s Deep Look series we’re treated to an overwhelming demonstration of why that’s the case. And, frankly, you may need to shower after watching this bug in action.

PBS recently posted the disgusting insight into the kissing bug to YouTube as a part of its Deep Look series.  Deep Look takes a deep look into various scientific topics using macro photography and microscopy. Previously, Deep Look has covered everything from hydras that can regrow their limbs to starfish that use their tiny feet to gallop.

While most of the creatures on Deep Look have some redeeming qualities, the kissing bug, which is native to Asia, Africa, Australia, and some southern parts of the U.S., is just…wrong. In every way. The tiny bug, a member of the blood-sucking, cone-nosed Triatominae subfamily of insect, gorges on its prey’s blood; whether that be the blood of a pack rat or a human. It’s able to take up to 30 minutes to do so too as it feeds its fleshy blood banks an anesthetic so they don’t know they’re serving as a feast.

A kissing bug about to suck some blood out of a person's arm in a demonstration of how the deadly insects gorge.
Deep Look

As the kissing bug gulps thirstily its exoskeleton grows like a balloon, holding 12 times its weight in blood. The teeny tiny bloodsucker then uses its own chemical-laden blood—hemolymph—to cool down the blood. Inside of its head. The insect is so effective at cooling the blood it can bring the liquid’s temperature down by more than 10°F.

Most putridly, the kissing bug will urinate and defecate after it’s done gorging. And sometimes while it’s gorging. As if this weren’t bad enough, the kissing bug’s urine and/or feces can cause Chagas disease if a victim unknowingly rubs the fecal material or urine into their body. Chagas disease, the result of parasitic infection, can lead to enlarged organs, flu-like symptoms, and even fatal heart disease.

A PBS Deep Look side-by-side comparison of a kissing bug before and after it's gorged on blood.
Deep Look

Oh, and the reason for the romantic-sounding moniker? People call them kissing bugs because of where on the body they often like to draw blood: from around the mouth. Have fun sleeping! (If you ever do again.)

Feature image: Deep Look

Top Stories
More by Matthew Hart
Trending Topics