Triatoma sanguisuga is found in the southeastern United States and throughout Latin America. This range includes both the Nearctic and Neotropical regions. It occupies North America in a range stretching from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Arizona. Most research on this insect is performed only with regard to the United States, so an exact range in Latin American is unknown.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )
Triatoma sanguisuga is on average 22 mm long and exhibits bilateral symmetry. It has an oval-shaped black body with red stripes on the outer edge of its thorax that continue onto its abdomen. Its two rear legs are twice as long as its four front legs. Its narrow head projects from its body, with large eyes protruding from half-way. T. sanguisuga has a significant proboscis on its head that is used to enter the blood vessel of its host during feeding. Jointed antennae also project from mid-way on the head. The sensory organs on the antennae, called sensilla, exhibit one example of sexual dimorphism in T. sanguisuga, where males have a higher density and different patterns than females. Nymphal instars are morphologically similar to adults, except they lack wings and their heads are slightly smaller. Eggs are small, white ovals measuring between 1 to 2 mm.
Different populations of the insect are influenced by different geographical barriers - and consequently, multiple haplotypes and physical characteristics have developed.
Range length: 12 to 36 mm.
Average length: 22 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently
Triatoma sanguisuga is found in terrestrial and wooded environments where small mammals live. Wood rats are the most common host for these blood sucking insects, and the rat nests provide a convenient home for the insects. Large flat rocks, detritus, and wood piles provide structural support for the rat nests and safety for the insects because they can feed, digest, and lay their eggs within. Triatoma sanguisuga also nests in human residences or farms when utilizing other animal sources of blood. It can be found under loose wooden floorboards and older building structures.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural
Triatoma sanguisuga derives its name from its only food choice, blood meals. It typically lives within the nests of its host, so that a food source is always near. Its most common host is the wood rat, Neotoma floridana, but it is also known to bite humans, horses, and other small mammals.
Animal Foods: blood
Primary Diet: carnivore (Sanguivore )
Triatoma sanguisuga is an obligate parasite that requires blood to complete its life cycle. It uses its proboscis to feed on blood from hosts that include eastern wood rats, horses, humans, and other small mammals such as raccoons and armadillos. While the bite made for feeding can go unnoticed, due to anesthetic in its saliva, a bite made in self-defense is painful and can cause swelling, dizziness, or nausea. Triatoma sanguisuga can act as a vector for Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan that causes Chagas disease, or viruses that cause equine enchephelomyelitis. Both of these pathogens can be fatal for the host. However, the defecation behavior of T. sanguisuga limit its risk of causing infection, as it does not defecate immediately while still on its host.
Ecosystem Impact: parasite
Species Used as Host:
- Eastern wood rats
- Small mammals
- Trypanosoma cruzi
Little information is available about animals that prey on Triatoma sanguisuga.
Life History and Behavior
Triatoma sanguisuga, like other Triatomine bugs, uses a variety of sensory modalities to locate its prey. It detects carbon dioxide levels, host-specific odors, moisture gradients, heat, and air flow messages. Some hosts emit specific chemical cues or infrared radiation that it can follow as well. Most Triatoma species posses segmented antennae bearing sensing bristles called sensilla. The arrangement and morphology of the sensilla varies, but in general, they function as the organs for chemoreception. The sensilla density and patterns exhibit sexual dimorphism, also suggesting a role in reproduction sensation.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones
Perception Channels: visual ; infrared/heat ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
These insects are hemimetabolous, and have incomplete metamorphosis. Life stages include the egg, nymph (instars), and adult. The eggs of Triatoma sanguisuga are deposited once the female has been fertilized and has received a blood meal. During embryonic development, a higher environmental temperature speeds development. A nymphal instar finds a blood meal 2 to 3 days after hatching. During the nymphal stage, T. sanguisuga undergoes ecdysis, which is repeated cycles of shedding. After sufficient feeding and digestion time, the molting hormone is released which signals the nymphal instar to molt. If born early in the warm season, a nymph can complete five instar stages, each separated by a molt. It undergoes hibernation during the winter months, during which it remains in an awakened sluggish state. The remaining nymphal stages are completed the following year if not completed in the first summer season. After completing 8 nymphal instar stages, the insect is considered to be an adult.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis
In a laboratory setting, Triatoma sanguisuga is found to live for 450 days on average. However, in this experiment, the insects did not undergo hibernation phases. Consequently, in nature its life cycle would be approximately 3 years when including the hibernation periods. T. sanguisuga is able to survive for long periods on relatively few feedings, with lab populations living over 100 days on only three or four meals.
Status: wild: 3 years.
Status: captivity: 450 days.
Females and males are polygynandrous; each sex finds multiple mates during their lifespan. Shorter in comparison to related insects, the mating time of T. sanguisuga lasts only 10 minutes. After male fertilization, females migrate to a new territory to found a new community.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
A female develops eggs in her ovarioles, but does not deposit them until she has been fertilized and has received a blood meal. Depending on host preference, space availability, and season of sexual maturity, a female can lay hundreds of eggs during her life. More eggs are laid when ambient temperatures are higher. Eggs are laid between May and September in the northern hemisphere. They are deposited individually while the female digests her most recent blood meal. Unfertilized eggs remain in the ovarioles of females for the rest of their lives.
Breeding interval: Triatoma sanguisuga can breed repeatedly once it reaches sexual maturity.
Breeding season: Triatoma sanguisuga breeds mainly during late spring and summer.
Range eggs per season: 5 to 17.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1.5 to 2.5 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1.5 to 2.5 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Adults of Triatoma sanguisuga do not provide any parental care other than provisioning of eggs. Each yolk provides nutrients for the fertilized eggs. Females do not take care to lay eggs in any specific place, but instead, they are laid where the females digest their last blood meal.
Parental Investment: pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female)
Triatoma sanguisuga has no special conversation status and is in no danger of extinction. The population is under control guidelines due to its role as a vector of Trypanosoma cruzi and consequential harm to humans.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Triatoma sanguisuga has been increasingly threatening to humans. Its primary nuisance is its blood feedings. It is also called the Mexican bed bug because it is known to feed at night. A third common name, the kissing bug, is earned because it tends to bite around the eyes and lips. In addition to the bite, T. sanguisuga is a confirmed vector for T. cruzi, a parasitic trypanosome that causes Chagas disease. The bite alone does not confer the parasite, but itching and allowing T. sanguisuga fecal material to enter the skin completes the transmission. Chagas disease is a serious and potentially lifelong disease, that at first can cause fever and swelling, and later can cause serious life threatening symptoms such as heart complications. This disease is most prevalent in Mexico, Central and South America, with as many as 11 million people infected. Triatoma sanguisuga can also transmit the virus that causes equine encephalomyelitis.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, carries human disease); causes or carries domestic animal disease ; household pest
There are no known positive effects of Triatoma sanguisuga on humans.
Triatoma sanguisuga, also known as the Eastern Bloodsucking Conenose or the Mexican Bed Bug, is an insect of the Triatominae subfamily, known as kissing bugs. Like other species in this subfamily, T. sanguisuga is known to bite and feed off of humans at the mouth during sleep. This bite is painful and can cause adverse effects such as swelling, feelings of faintness, nausea, and vomiting.
T. sanguisuga is found throughout North America, particularly in the American South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia), as well as in portions of South America. They are generally about 1–2 cm long and brown or black, with an alternating pattern of brown/black and red/orange stripes around the abdomen. They are winged and have kinked antennae and a slender proboscis used for feeding.
T. sanguisuga is a known carrier of T. cruzi, and therefore is a vector for transmission of Chagas disease to humans. However, because the disease is transmitted through the feces, and because the North American variety does not defecate while feeding, Chagas disease is primarily spread by the species only in South America, where the insect does defecate during feeding.
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