Have you heard of the kissing bug? It may be an odd name for an insect, but this bug got its name from having a habit of feeding on the face and lips of its hosts — people. These are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of mammals, including humans and our pets. Their bites may be painful and cause irritation, but the bites alone are not a major health threat. The main concern comes into play when they are carrying a parasitic worm that can cause Chagas disease. The only way to spread the disease is to have infected insect feces enter the body, either through the bite or through a vulnerable area such as the eyes.

The kissing bug can be found in the state of Georgia, but few of the insects will carry the parasite. Like mosquitoes, kissing bugs have to bite an infected host in order to pass on the disease. And, like mosquitoes, there are precautions you can take to decrease your chances of contacting a kissing bug. Like most insects, they prefer to be in protected areas: under rocks, in cracks and crevices, under porches, in dog kennels, etc. Your best option for limiting contact is to eliminate as many potential entry points as possible: Make sure door and window seals are tight, use window and door screens, keep pets indoors to sleep, and adjust outdoor lighting so that insects are not attracted to doors.

If you see a kissing bug, use caution and cover it with a cup or bowl. Then slide a piece of paper underneath so that you can capture the insect without touching it. Insects can then be sent to experts for identification and concerns can be addressed appropriately.