Kiss off, ugly bug!

Warning: this post is gross and disgusting and may cause nightmares.

120px-Actress-fear-and-panicWhat? Still reading?

In that case, consider this my Public Service Announcement. This week, I took one for the team. On the butt. And lived to tell the tale.

I live in the foothills of California. We are in the middle of a draught. It’s also summer, which means it’s hot AND dry. We sleep with the windows open (with screens, of course) and fans going and not much else. And there are bugs.

I know this for a fact because earlier this week, my husband was making the bed (while I was making the coffee) and he spotted a rather large black “beetle” on the floor by my side of the bed. He picked it up in a tissue and squished it.

Are you grossed out yet? 

He then carried it to the toilet and dropped it in, but he also happened to look at the tissue and was shocked to see blood. Bright red blood.

“Do bugs bleed?” he called to me.

I was busy and didn’t hear, so he reached into the toilet and retrieved the bug. (Smart man.)

Here’s what he brought to the kitchen to show me.

kissing bug

Now, you’re grossed out. Told ‘ya.

Long story short: this hideous-looking thing is a kissing bug. I confirmed my guess with my neighbor who is the head of the county health department. (Here’s what an un-squished one looks like–notice the cone-shaped nose.)


Kissing bugs wait for their prey to fall deeply asleep then they anesthesize a spot on exposed skin and suck the victim’s blood. In this case, mine. I know because I’m the one with a red, raised welt the size of a quarter on my posterior.

No photo. My gift to you.

I also learned that, thankfully, our local kissing bugs don’t carry the deadly, horrible disease called Chagas. The disease is most commonly found in South America, but it has shown up recently in Texas. That’s very bad news.

I’m relieved that I don’t have a terrible disease. I truly am, but I’m still very unhappy about being some ugly bug’s meal. So, I put the photo up on Facebook, and, as you can imagine, it created quite a stir. I learned a lot from this post, though, because I know a lot of very knowledgeable people.

An author friend who lives in my county wrote:

“They are also called kissing bugs because you won’t feel their bite. Yes, they are horrible and usually a bite will be red, swollen, and wide. Some people are terriby allergic to them. Boric acid powder kills them but it’s poisonous for cats and dogs–should be used in crevices. They like gopher holes, probably bite the gophers and ground squirrels.”

My dentist even commented:

“Those bugs are satanic! They stalk you and come out after you go to sleep. One of my kids is very allergic to them. They hang around other animals like cats,raccoons,etc. I generally check behind and under all furniture once I find one. I usually fine several every year around our place, really “bugs” me:)”

Another friend spoke from experience and shared a trick for keeping kissing bugs away,

“Kissing bugs live and breed in oak trees where rodents are nesting. Look for rat or squirrel nests and clean them out. I agree with the use of bay leaves. We always had bay leaves in our mattresses and pillowcases as a child. All of us were very allergic to the bites.”

I tore my bed apart, of course. Washed all the bedding. Vacuumed and dusted. And cut so many branches of bay limbs it looks like a laurel pyre under my bed.

For the past couple of nights, I’ve slept like a baby. I hope you’re reading this early in the day…it’s the sort of thing nightmares are made of.

But I did warn you.





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About Debra Salonen

From award-winning journalist to nationally bestselling author with 26 published novels for Harlequin's Superromance and American lines, Debra Salonen brings humor and heart to her stories. She was named Romantic Times Reviewer's Career Achievement "Series Storyteller of the Year" in 2006. Her popular Indie release, Are We There Yet, has been called "laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and just plain fabulous!" Cowgirl Come Home, her newest release for Tule Publishing, is a full-length novel set in Montana.

12 thoughts on “Kiss off, ugly bug!

  1. Have never heard of this bug. Diatomaceous Earth might kill them, too. Creepy stuff, Deb! It’s going to be in a book, isn’t it?

  2. LOL. You know me well, Jackie! Nothing goes to waste in a writer’s life–even the gross and disgusting.

    With luck, they don’t like the rain. Maybe they’re not in the Pacific Northwest. Might be reason to move there…hmmm. ;-)

  3. Well, two moths ago we had a bed bug infestation in the kids rooms. No idea from whence they came. Took a shitload (hope it’s okay to say that) of money to eradicate them from my home. Heat treatment. The house prep for the treatment–rearranging furniture, taking out things like chocolate, meds, candles, etc…which would melt or be ruined with temps over 130F–was a real PITA. And, I had to leave the house for the day. There’s only so much shopping or time you want to spend at the library when you really want to be home. The disruption of the household when a confluence of other events is going on doesn’t help. Felt like a giant maelstrom. And, I was the one taking all the stress.

    Makes me want to never stay in a hotel again–though we don’t know for certain that’s where we got them.

    So, I do understand your frustration via another insect. But, seeing one’s kids covered in welts will make a mom do almost anything.

    Loved the imagery of the pyre under your bed.

  4. Oh, my heavens, Denise. I had no idea. My friend and her family stayed in a high end hotel in San Francisco and one daughter came home covered in welts. Luckily, the bugs didn’t get into their bags or clothes, but that is how they travel, I’m told.

    I’m sooo sorry you had to go through this. I can imagine your anguish. Sorry, my friend. :-( Thanks for sharing.

    Is there anything you can do to prevent them for establishing a presence in your house? I’ve started passing out bay branches to my neighbors.


  5. No, there’s nothing to do to prevent it from happening again. They did spray on the baseboards, and put a powder in the outlets to try and get any which could hide in the walls–doubtful they could survive the heat. The powder is supposed to last (be potent) for several years.

    We haven’t had a recurrence, and I hope we never do.

  6. Yikes… They are in Texas too? I have found some beetle looking bugs in the house a few times and flushed them. I sure hope this isn’t what they were. I didn’t examine them very well. But I did have a huge bite on one of my arms a few weeks ago. I assumed it was a spider bite. Now, I don’t know. bugs are coming inside our house lately because of the flooding in May and June and now it’s extremely hot. I killed a 2 inch roach yesterday.

  7. Why did I keep reading, or rather look at the pictures….am I glad I live in the Netherlands. I am pretty sure they don’t exist here (better look that up to be sure). Don’t you have the saying “goodnight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”…I hope they will stay far away and don’t “bug” you ever again :-)

  8. Janine, try bay leaves that you’d use in soup, if you have them. Stick under your mattress or in pillowcase, just to be safe. The bite creates a large red circular welt that may or may not itch. There is Chagas in Texas, so be aware of the symptoms. I don’t want to cause you any anxiety, but this is bad thing.
    That said, you may not be in an area where kissing bugs habitate. We are surrounded by oak trees and have gophers and wood rats out in the trees. I would think any urban environment would less likely to see this kind of bug. But I can’t say for sure.
    Sucky–isn’t it (pun intended)?

  9. Mirjam, we do have that saying. Mom used to tell me that when I was little, which, is a terrible thing to say to a child with a vivid imagination! :-) Luckily, I’ve never seen a bed bug and hope I never do, but I’ve heard certain hotels are plagued by them. As you can see from my friend Denise’s post, they’re not easy to get rid of.

    I am happy to say this is the first Kissing Bug I’ve run across in 25 years of living here. First and last, I hope.

    Thanks for your good wishes. Sorry about the picture. Totally gross, I agree.


  10. That is crazy! I hope that I do not ever see one of those bugs, I tend to have reactions to bites and get bit when no one else does. Denise, I am so sorry that you had to go through that. My Stepdad travels and stays in hotels all the time and we always worry that he will bring them home with him.

  11. Thanks. I hope nobody has to go through this, although I am lucky I didn’t have a worse reaction. I’ve been hearing horror stories, let me tell you.

    I’ve heard you shouldn’t leave your suitcase open on the floor. Always use that folding stand they have for it.

    Thanks for the reply. Odd topic but always nice to chat with people.

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