LOCKHART, TEXAS --- When Janet Christian and her husband bought a 100-acre ranch in rural Lockhart, Texas five years ago they knew they’d share the natural setting with all sorts of nature’s critters from time to time.
“I've stepped on Scorpions. I've been in Fire Ants. We've had Snakes that we've seen,” said Christian.
Six months ago a creepy crawler found its way onto Christian’s favorite chair in the sunroom inside of her house. A creature she had never seen before.
“I was sitting here drinking coffee, leaning back. I had my feet on the rest and it was like 'ow!' And I pulled forward and looked back and it was one of those bugs,” said Christian, who took pictures of the insects.
Over a few months Christian found six of the bugs, bagged them up and them to the State Health Department, who in turn forwarded them to Scientists at Texas A&M.
Experts confirmed they were Kissing Bugs, natives of Central and South America which have slowly made their way to Texas beginning in the 1900s.
There’s now growing awareness that some kissing bugs can carry a parasite called Chagas, which if introduced in to the human blood stream, can cause heart issues even 30 to 40 years down the road.
The insects are called kissing bugs because if they bite humans it’s usually around the mouth and eye area.
Scientists say the blood suckers usually feed on wild animals out in rural areas. Texas A&M Scientists are now studying the creatures to see if any Chagas carriers are moving into urban environments.
Chagas is treatable with antibiotics but can lead to death if not treated.
Correct way to bag the bugs
Experts warn people not to touch the bugs with their hands. There is a correct way to bag them and mail them to scientists who want them for further study.
If you spot a kissing bug, experts say to thoroughly clean surfaces they may have come into contact with and never touch the bug with bare hands.
TAMU researchers are trying to find out which sort of habitat the kissing bugs like to live in and which sort of environmental factors lead to their presence.
Contact the Texas A&M Research team if you believe you’ve seen a kissing bug or want to submit a sample for testing. Make sure to store the bug in a plastic bag or container, note where and when it was found, and what it was doing at the time (flying, walking, etc.).