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PSA: This is NOT a Kissing Bug

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Most of my posts are about vertebrate wildlife, especially birds. However, today I decided to write about an occurrence in my personal life. I chose to write about this incident in my personal life, as a way to humble myself before you all.

Not a kissing bug in Wyoming
NOT a Triatoma protracta (kissing bug) in Wyoming

On August 29th, at approximately 8:03 pm, I encountered an insect on my kitchen counter. Having raised "wheel bugs" in elementary school, I thought I recognized the general body shape of the "assassin bug" insect. However, with no wheel on its back, and no wide segments on the rear or front legs, I became confused.

My thoughts raced to the potential for a kissing bug, but I did not think they occur in Wyoming. As this thought crossed my mind, I trapped the insect between a cup and some paper. I gave it a quick study and came to the conclusion it almost certainly was a kissing bug. Of course, I did not research how to handle finding a kissing bug, so I crushed the insect inside the plastic cup it was trapped within. Oh, how wrong was I.

Why is the Kissing Bug Dangerous?

If you have a mother, and you all do, she has likely warned you about various diseases and dalliances you could experience in this world. Being a lover of travel, especially to the tropics, my wonderful mother warned me, years ago, about the kissing bug and the danger it presents. As a respectful son, I always listened to her warnings.

Kissing bugs are known vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi , a parasitic protozoan that can be transmitted to humans. This parasite leads to the disease known as Chagas disease, named after the Brazilian physician, Carlos Chagas, who discovered the disease in 1909.

Not a Kissing Bug

After several hours of contemplation, I came to my conclusion that this was likely a kissing bug and I needed to notify officials. I contacted an entomologist at UW and relayed my thoughts. I agreed to provide photos of my claim, but while discussing the kissing bug possibility, he mentioned an insect I never came across in my searches, the masked hunter. After ending our call, I sent the entomologist some photos and looked into the masked hunter, Reduvius personatus. Whoops. I missed this insect in all my insect guides and online searchings. Apparently, it is native to the Eastern Hemisphere and was transported to the Americas. I did not need a callback from the helpful entomologist. My mistake was as clear as the nictitating membrane on an American Dipper. I had caused myself to panic, and now I look quite silly.

How NOT to Identify a Kissing Bug

I have learned to stick to what I know, birds. I can identify birds with a fair amount of ease. However, this little insect gave me quite the rope-a-dope. Ouch. My pride.

The photos turned out well, though...

Masked hunter - Reduvius personatus
Masked hunter - Reduvius personatus in Wyoming


Ellis, you make valid points. I killed it before thinking I needed to identify it, though. I was too reactionary. Alas!


Ellis Hein
Ellis Hein
Nov 13, 2019

You may know this already, but next time you have caught an insect like this one that you will want to identify, stick it in the freezer for 20 minutes to an hour. It comes out whole making identification easier than trying to assemble broken antennae, piecing together leg parts or trying to decipher vein patterns in the many pieces of wing. Your friendly entomologist at UW will rejoice at receiving an identifiable specimen.

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