Kissing bugs are no wonder nasty bugs to have around. These bugs can bite, and they also cause dangerous diseases like the Chagas disease.
But it’s pretty common in the bug world to have look-alikes. And kissing bugs have their copycats too.
Some of these bugs don’t bite humans or mammals. They only feed on plant matter and insects.
In this guide, you’ll find six bugs that look like kissing bugs.
You’ll also learn to identify a kissing bug and tell the difference between kissing bugs and their look-alikes.
It’ll help you identify these bugs and protect yourself from the potential threats that kissing bugs present.
Kissing Bugs – Know Your Enemy!
So, what are kissing bugs? And why should you be careful about them?
Kissing bugs belong to the Triatoma insect species that rely on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles to survive.
Blood is the primary food source for kissing bugs.
Also known as conenose bugs because of their shape, kissing bugs are nocturnal that can hide in human dwellings.
Inside a home, kissing bugs will hide in tiny gaps and cracks near the bed, in the walls, and in furniture.
Kissing bugs hide and remain idle during the day. At night they come out to feed.
They’ll bite mammals, which includes you and your pets, when they’re asleep. Kissing bug bites are painless, and bite symptoms, like swellings, itching, and red marks, take some time to appear.
While feeding, they bite multiple parts of the body.
And because of these multiple bites, the bitten portion will develop rashes at various spots.
Kissing bugs have a habit of biting near the mouth of humans. It’s because while you’re asleep, your face might be the only exposed portion that they can reach.
Their habit of biting on the mouth makes them known as kissing bugs.
In the US, kissing bugs are common in the states with warm weather.
But you can also find kissing bugs in states like Colorado. And there’s also a considerable presence of kissing bugs in 28 states of the US.
These bugs also span out to other countries in Central America, South America, and Mexico.
What Do Kissing Bugs Look Like?
Unless you know how to identify kissing bugs, you won’t distinguish them with their look-alikes.
Kissing bugs are pretty easy to identify. The bugs that look like kissing bugs are so similar looking that they’re the ones that create confusion.
Kissing bugs are either black or brown. The rear end of the body, which is their abdomen, is oval-shaped.
Kissing bugs have visible spots at the edges of their abdomen. These spots are yellowish or reddish.
A fully matured adult kissing bug grows up to an inch and has three pairs of legs.
The head of the kissing bug, which is conical, has a pair of antennae. There’s also a visible snout-like thing on the kissing bug’s mouth, known as a proboscis.
Kissing bugs insert the proboscis on their victim’s body to inject their saliva and to suck out the blood.
The saliva causes allergic reactions, itching, and bite marks in some people.
Bugs That Look Like Kissing Bugs And The Differences
Now that you’re an expert in identifying kissing bugs, it’s time to find the bugs that look like kissing bugs.
You’ll find out the subtle yet crucial differences between the kissing bugs and those that look similar to them.
Let’s find them out.
The Masked Hunter – The Closet Look-Alike Of Kissing Bugs
Nothing confuses more with kissing bugs than the masked hunter.
The masked hunter looks exactly like kissing bugs at a casual look because they’re distant cousins of the kissing bugs.
But if you notice the masked hunter closely, you’ll find some glaring differences.
Here are how the masked hunter looks like and the differences between the masked hunter and the kissing bugs –
- Masked hunters don’t have many different colors on them as the kissing bugs have on their abdomen and on their body.
- Masked hunters are entirely black.
- Masked hunters don’t have the snout or proboscis which the kissing bugs have. On the masked hunters, you’d only see a tiny head-mounted with two antennae.
- Masked hunters look more robust than kissing bugs. The thorax of the masked hunter is more muscular than the kissing bugs’ thorax.
- Masked hunters feed only on insects both indoors and outdoors. Unlike kissing bugs, the masked hunters do feed on mammal’s blood.
- Masked hunters are thinner than kissing bugs. They’re also smaller than kissing bugs growing up to three-quarters of an inch when wholly matured.
When the temperature outdoors increases during the summer, the masked hunter bugs can sneak inside your home looking for a cooler place to hide.
Artificial light also attracts the masked hunter bugs.
Well, like the adult kissing bugs, the adult masked hunter bugs can fly too. Attracted by the light, the masked hunter bugs fly inside your home through the open doors and windows.
There’s one more thing that distinguishes the masked hunter bugs from the kissing bugs.
The masked hunter bugs have a sticky body.
So, when they wander in the dust or debris, the waste will stick on their bodies.
Those piles of waste, dust, and mud make the masked hunter quite hard to spot.
Do the masked hunter bugs bite?
Yes, they do bite, but only when you try to handle it or poke it. The bite is as painful as a wasp sting.
But the best part is that, unlike the kissing bugs, the masked hunter bug doesn’t carry any pathogens that can cause diseases.
Apart from some pain, there’s no other known reaction on humans bitten by the masked hunter bug.
To an extent, the masked hunter bugs are beneficial bugs in the yard and inside the home because they’re predators and hunt down damaging pests and insects.
The Wheel Bug – The Worst Enemy Of The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
The wheel bug is another kissing bug look-alike that you’ll find outdoors.
Parts of New England and Pennsylvania also have pretty decent numbers of wheel bugs.
Wheel bugs resemble kissing bugs when it comes to their body shape.
But there are many distinctive features in the wheel bugs that will help you conclude that it’s not a kissing bug.
There’s one difference in their anatomy that will help you recognize them instantly.
And that’s a semicircular serrated wheel on their thorax resembling a chicken comb.
Wheel bugs are as big or bigger than kissing bugs. An adult fully matured wheel bug grows up to 1.25 inches in length.
Wheel bugs are also more muscular than kissing bugs. Their bodies, and especially their legs, are stouter than kissing bugs.
Differences in colors between the wheel bugs and the kissing bugs also exist.
Another difference is that wheel bugs have tiny hair on their bodies that appears as a white patch.
Wheel bugs are quite aggressive, and when you come across them outdoors, it’d be best if you don’t tamper with them or try to hold them.
When disturbed, wheel bugs can bite you. And that bite is as painful as a bee sting.
Experts say that wheel bug bites are more painful than some snake bites!
But a bite from a wheel bug isn’t poisonous. Neither does it cause any disease.
Washing off the bitten area with warm water and using an antiseptic is good enough to ease the pain from a wheel bug bite.
Do wheel bugs get inside homes?
They can because they, too, are attracted to light. But your home is not an ideal habitat for them to survive.
Wheel bugs are beneficial insects that feed on harmful garden bugs and pests.
They’re pretty good at hunting down caterpillars, mealybugs, sawflies, and aphids that harm plants.
But wheel bugs also hunt and eat beneficial bugs like ladybugs and honey bees.
The best part is that wheel bugs hunt and devours a menacing crop and garden pest, which also looks like the kissing bugs.
And that is the brown marmorated stink bug.
The Stink Bug – The Miniature Form Of The Kissing Bugs
The stink bug, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug, looks like the kissing bugs more than the masked hunter bug.
If there’s any bug on the list of bugs that look like kissing bugs that you can term as a pest, it’s the stink bug.
Stink bugs cause massive damage to crops, fruit plantations, and even in regular gardens at homes.
These bugs are also invasive because they can enter homes in large numbers during specific times of the year.
When it comes to looks, stink bugs look no different than kissing bugs.
But, you, as a reader of this post, will now know the differences.
Here’s the difference between the stink bugs and the kissing bugs.
- Stink bugs are smaller than kissing bugs. A matured adult stink bug grows up to only 0.67 inches in length.
- Stink bugs are brownish or greyish with a string of yellowish spots at the middle of their back. Like the kissing bugs, stink bugs have patch marks, which can be reddish, at the edges of their abdomen. But these patch marks are smaller in size than the patch marks in kissing bugs.
- Stink bugs have a slight hump on their back. In contrast, the kissing bugs are flat.
- Stink bugs have white stripes on the antennae and the legs. The kissing bugs’ antennae and legs are of a single color without any streaks.
- Unlike kissing bugs, stink bugs don’t have proboscis or a snout on their mouth.
Stink bugs are native to Asia, and over the years, they’ve spread in the West Coast, Eastern, and the Midwestern United States.
Stink bugs invade homes during winters when they are on the lookout for places to overwinter.
On top of that, stink bugs can also get inside cars and cargo containers.
Stink bugs will get inside your home through the cracks or crevices on the walls, open doors and windows, and through the attic.
But stink bugs don’t reproduce in a human dwelling. They’ll prefer hiding in the tiny gaps and cracks inside the home.
On squashing a stink bug, you’ll get a nasty smell. The smell comes from the puncture of the scent gland that is located under the thorax.
That’s why it’s always advisable to use a vacuum cleaner on the stink bugs rather than squashing them.
People who’re allergic to bug odor, especially roaches’ smell, can get allergic reactions from the smell of stink bugs.
Stink bugs don’t pose any threat to you and your pets. Stink bugs don’t bite, and neither do they spread any diseases.
Stink bugs are destructive to crops.
For example, in 2010, they’ve caused serious damage to crops worth $37 million. That doesn’t include the damage they caused to dry fruits plantations like hazelnuts and almonds.
The Bee Assassin Bug – The Colorful Look-Alike Of Kissing Bug
On top of being similar in shape and size to the kissing bugs, the bee assassin bug looks vibrant and beautiful.
Bee assassin bug is another beneficial garden bug that hunts and eats garden pests.
By their name, you can think that the bee assassin bug hunts only bees. But it’s not entirely true.
They’ll hunt any bug or insect that they can eat. And that includes bees.
Quite the contrary, you’ll find bee assassin bugs in trees with no honey bees around.
Although there are quite a few anatomical differences between the kissing bugs and the bee assassin bugs, there’s only one difference differentiating them.
And that difference is the bee assassin bugs are brighter in color than the kissing bugs.
The thorax is bright reddish, and the edges of the abdomen have bright red or yellow patches.
Like the kissing bugs, the bee assassin bug also has a beak (proboscis) to penetrate inside the prey to inject its saliva.
Mostly outdoor bugs, bee assassin bugs rarely enter homes.
Bee assassin bugs have wings, but they’re poor fliers. They’d rather lurk and wait for their prey on the petals of flowers, twigs, and branches than flying to the prey.
And yes, bee assassin bugs can bite you if you try to handle them.
The Western Conifer Seed Bug – The Seed Eating Look-Alike Of Kissing Bug
The western conifer seed bug is common across the northern United States and Canada.
It’s a type of kissing bug look-alike which you can term as a nuisance bug.
These bugs enter homes in hordes during early autumn to overwinter. Once inside the house, these bugs will hide in cracks and tight gaps inside your home.
So, how do you differentiate between the western conifer seed bug and the kissing bug?
It’s quite tricky because the differences are quite subtle.
First, they don’t have the proboscis or snout that kissing bugs have.
As the western conifer-seed bugs are not blood-sucking bugs, they don’t have it. The western conifer-seed bugs eat seeds and the sprouting cones of the conifer trees.
The second difference between the western conifer seed bug and the kissing bug lies in color.
The upper side of the abdomen is yellowish. It’s not evident when the bug is at rest because the wings cover it.
But it’s noticeable when they’re flying.
When at rest, you’ll notice a tannish back with dark tan color on the thorax region.
The third, very subtle yet often overlooked difference is the antennae.
If you’d notice carefully, you’ll see the base of the western conifer-seed bug’s antennae has a thick base.
In contrast, the kissing bugs’ antennae don’t have it.
The fourth difference lies in the hind legs.
Near the end of the hind legs of the western conifer seed bug, there’s a thick dilated portion.
It’s missing in the hind legs of the kissing bugs.
The antennae and the hind legs are good enough to differentiate between the kissing bug and the western conifer seed bug.
And finally, the western conifer seed bug is smaller than the kissing bug. It measures up to ¾ of an inch, whereas the kissing bug is an inch long.
The western conifer seed bug has quite random color variations on its body. These colors include red, light tan, orange, and brown.
It’s difficult to distinguish between the western conifer seed bug and the kissing bug if you focus only on the color.
The western conifer-seed bugs get inside their homes during the autumn to spend the winter months.
They’re random fliers and produce a buzzing sound like a bumblebee.
Western conifer-seed bugs also produce a nasty odor, making them a disgusting bug inside your home.
These bugs eat seeds, but they don’t cause any damage to plantations in gardens or yards.
Western conifer-seed bugs don’t bite humans either. But there are instances when boxelder bugs have bitten humans in self-defense.
The Boxelder Bug – The Easiest Bug To Differentiate From The Kissing Bug
You wouldn’t need to observe the boxelder for long to tell it that it’s not a kissing bug.
But those who haven’t read this post and don’t know the differences can’t differentiate between the boxelder bug and the kissing bug.
You’ll find boxelder bugs on the east coast and in some areas of Nevada too.
These bugs hover around in geographies where there are boxelder trees.
Boxelder bugs measure up to half an inch in length, and they’re flat. They have only two colors, red and black.
Their bodies are oval-shaped, black, with red or orangish patches on their back.
Boxelder bugs are also nuisance bugs. They enter homes during the summer months to escape the heat and during the winter months to overwinter.
Boxelder bugs don’t cause any damage inside the home. But their feces stains are quite hard to get rid of.
Also, boxelder bugs emit a nasty odor when you squash them.
But these bugs don’t bite, nor do they transmit any diseases.
You’ve just finished the most comprehensive guide on the bugs that look like kissing bugs.
The six kissing bugs look-alikes are –
- Masked hunter Bugs
- Wheel bugs
- Stink bugs
- Bee assassin bugs
- Western conifer-seed bugs
- Boxelder bugs
All of these bugs are part of the assassin bugs family. That’s why there are so many similarities in their anatomy and appearance.
But this guide has revealed all the differences.
In this guide, you’ve learned to spot the differences between kissing bugs and the kissing bugs look-alikes.
You’ve also found out that these bugs are attracted to light. And that’s one of the things that brings them to your home.
They can get inside your home through the open doors and windows and cracks on the walls.
To stop these bugs from entering your home, it’d be best if you seal the cracks on your home’s walls, doors, and windows with a quality sealant that bugs can’t chew.
Also, using bug repellent lights outdoors, like in your yard, garden, or patio deck, will stop these bugs from entering your home.
We’re Mark and Jim. We were serial pest killers for almost all of our lives. Through this blog we spread pest murdering tips to people like you who want to keep their homes pest free.