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Janet Laminack: Kissing bugs may not pose an immediate threat to all

Kissing bugs have been in the news lately. Maybe you have been wondering what that really means and if you will be impacted by Chagas disease.

On Jan. 28, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is offering a class that will answer these questions and many more of your insect questions. “What’s Bugging You?” will feature Sonja Swiger explaining the risks and control methods for disease-vectoring mosquitoes and kissing bugs.

The class will have five continuing education units (CEUs) available for pesticide applicators but is not limited to just pesticide applicators.

The class costs $40 and pre-registration is recommended because class size is limited. Lunch will be on your own. To register, go online at denton.agrilife.org.

Mike Merchant will talk about “pests that every Texas homeowner needs to know.” He will discuss how to maintain your home’s value with good pest control covering termites, bees, fire ants, rodents and other pests.

Other speakers will be your local county Extension agents. David Annis will do a presentation on understanding pesticide labels and how to use that information properly. Annis will also do a presentation on sprayer calibration to include how to make a sprayer for your home use.

I will do a presentation on “Least Toxic Pesticides for the Home Landscape.” I will discuss integrated pest management techniques for common landscape pests and how to use cultural, biological and physical controls before resorting to chemicals.

But let’s get back to kissing bugs.

Even though the news reports were in November about the dangers of kissing bugs and Chagas disease, it’s not really the time of year for the insect to be active.

Kissing bugs are not a cold-weather species but are active May through October. Also, kissing bugs are nocturnal and hide very well.

The likelihood that you will run across a kissing bug in your house is not impossible but probably not as common as you might think.

In fact, after recent news reports, the kissing bug research team at Texas A&M University received more than 600 samples of insects to identify and only six of them were kissing bugs.

You can visit the team’s web page to see how to identify a kissing bug at http://kissingbug.tamu.edu.

And what about the danger of Chagas disease? Right now, there is not enough data to verify if Chagas is a common problem here, especially in North Texas.

Dog infection rates are very high where the bugs are common, more often in the southern parts of the state.

Additionally, researchers think that dogs are more likely than people to have Chagas because they acquire the pathogen orally, when they eat bugs. So even in a high population of kissing bugs, the problem seems to be greater for dogs than humans.

If you have questions about insects in your home or landscape or horticulture questions, visit dcmga.com, call the Master Gardener help desk at 940-349-2892 or email master.gardener@dentoncounty.com.

 

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.