Kissing bugs are oval-shaped flat bugs that feed on the blood of humans and animals.
But many bugs, that are harmless, look like kissing bugs. These kissing bugs look-alikes have a tendency to show up in your yard or garden.
In this guide, you’ll find out nine bugs that look like kissing bugs.
You’ll learn to identify the critical differences in them and differentiate between kissing bugs and their look-alikes like a pro.
You’ll also learn the hacks and tips to remove these bugs from your property.
9 Kissing Bugs Look-Alikes
- Masked hunter bugs
- Wheel bugs
- Stink bugs
- Bee assassin bugs
- Western conifer seed bugs
- Boxelder bugs
- Flat bugs
- Leaf-footed bugs
- Bordered plant bugs
The most common characteristic in these kissing bugs look-alikes are their flat oval shaped bodes and the beak in their mouths.
However, not all of these bugs can be dangerous to humans and pets.
Let’s deep dive into each of these bugs to find out more.
Masked Hunter 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 is another kissing bug look-alike that you’ll find outdoors.
You’ll come across wheel bugs in the southern US, including Texas and Florida, the Midwest, Rhode Island, and western California.
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, 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.
Bee Assassin Bugs
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.
Western Conifer Seed Bugs
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.
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.
Flat bugs, also known as fungus bugs, are flat dark-colored insects that primarily live outdoors.
Their hiding places are underneath stones and wood logs, in the orifices of dead trees and tree trunks, and inside the decaying tree barks.
Flat bugs’ size ranges from 0.12 inches to 0.43 inches. Most of the flat bugs are brown with flat bodies, flared sides, and a beak-like appearance on their mouths. That makes them look like kissing bugs.
Some of the flat bugs can also be orange and yellow.
Flat bugs have developed wings. But the wings are too small to make them fly.
Flat bugs feed on the fungi and mildew that form on decaying organic matter like wood and foliage.
The pheromones of bark beetles attract the flat bugs. But they don’t eat the bark beetles.
Instead, the flat bugs know that bark beetles damage trees, so chasing the bark beetles will help them reach the food source.
Flat bugs don’t cause any significant damage to trees and plants. They don’t reproduce in large numbers, either.
Using a standard insecticide spray like Raid is good enough to eliminate the flat bugs.
Flat bugs can bite you with their beak-like mouth part if you try to handle them with your bare hands.
Leaf-footed bugs are damaging plant pests that look like kissing bugs. These bugs wreak havoc on the garden with ornamental plants.
Leaf-footed bugs are specifically fond of tomato plants that they destroy by sucking out their sap.
An adult matured leaf-footed bug grows up to 2.5 cm or just under an inch in size. These bugs are dark brown or black.
Their body shape is oval, and like the kissing bugs, they’ve flat bodies.
Leaf-footed bugs also have a long beak-like mouth part known as a proboscis. It helps them to suck out the sap from the plants.
You can easily confuse kissing bugs with leaf-footed bugs because of their shape, color, and size similarities.
However, a distinguishing factor in the leaf-footed bugs’ anatomy differentiates them from the kissing bugs.
Leaf-footed bugs have a leaf-like structure on their hind legs. That’s why these bugs got their names as leaf-footed bugs.
Unlike the kissing bugs, leaf-footed bugs don’t bite.
But leaf-footed bugs can enter your home during the winter when they look for warm places to overwinter.
So, like the clover mites, you might notice leaf-footed bugs resting on windowsills or rocks and stones that receive direct sunlight.
Leaf-footed bugs will sneak inside the house through the gaps and cracks in the walls and windowsills in winter.
But they don’t lay any eggs inside the house.
Leaf-footed bugs will come out from overwintering when spring arrives and move out of your house.
Using a vacuum cleaner on the bug and disposing of it outside your property is the best way to remove the leaf-footed bugs inside the house.
A standard insecticide spray like Raid on the leaf-footed bugs will remove the bugs from the outdoors.
Bordered Plant Bugs
Bordered plant bugs, also known as largus bugs, are kissing bugs look-alikes that are common in the southern states of the US.
Bordered plant bugs are 5/8 inches in size. They’re dull gray or black, with orange stripes at the edges of their wings and two orange lines on their thorax.
The orange borders on their back and wings trick many people into thinking they’re either kissing bugs or boxelder bugs.
Bordered plant bugs can appear in large numbers in your garden or yard during the late spring and early summer.
They gather in clusters. But they don’t do any damage to your plants or seedlings.
Bordered plant bugs feed on the weeds, fallen seeds, tiny offshoots of trees, and dead insects in gardens and yards.
Unlike the boxelder bugs, the bordered plant bugs don’t enter your home during winter. These bugs are harmless, and they don’t bite humans and pets.
But they can be a nuisance and discomforting bug for your pets if they try to chew them.
It’s because, like most bugs in the true bugs family, the bordered plant bugs emit a nasty odor or stench when they feel they’re under threat.
Removing these bugs is relatively straightforward. All you’ve to do is scatter insecticide dust on these bugs to eliminate them.
However, picking up these bugs with a pincher and putting them in a mason jar is what many gardeners do.
What Are Kissing Bugs, And What Do They Look Like?
Kissing bugs, also known as conenose bugs, are blood-feeding bugs that are dark brown or black.
These bugs grow up to 0.75 inches in size, and they’re flat oval-shaped with six legs and a beak-like mouthpart that they use to insert into their prey to suck out blood.
Kissing bugs have fully developed wings that help them to fly. The wings have orange borders, which are visible at rest.
Kissing bugs are a type of true bug in the assassin bugs family. These bugs are nocturnal, meaning they’ll hide during the day and come out at night to feed.
The kissing bugs season is from May to July. During this period kissing bugs sneak inside the house, and they seek a human or animal host to draw blood.
However, kissing bugs can also enter homes during the winter months. And if the home is warm enough, these bugs will remain active.
Inside the house, kissing bugs will hide in places like the attic, wall voids, and the cluttered areas of your home where there’s less human footfall.
When you turn off the lights during the night, kissing bugs will come out of hiding to feed on your blood.
Kissing bugs find their hosts by tracking the carbon dioxide that humans and animals exhale. Sweat and body odor are cues kissing bugs pick up to reach their prey.
Kissing bugs will bite you on any exposed body portion while asleep. These bugs can bite you on your face at the tender areas near the lips.
That’s how they got their names kissing bugs.
You won’t feel any pain or piercing when kissing bugs bite you. Bite symptoms start to appear after a couple of days. In some people, it can even take two weeks to show up.
Bite symptoms are intense itching, red welts, and swelling that last for several days. People allergic to bug bites can show more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, a sudden fall in blood pressure, and an increased heart rate.
Kissing bug bites also causes Chagas disease in humans.
If a kissing bug bites you, it’ll be best to see a physician ASAP.
Kissing bugs are widespread in the south and central America and Mexico. In the US, kissing bugs have gained strongholds in states like Texas, Utah, California, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Arizona.
In recent years, Tennessee has also noticed an upsurge in the kissing bugs population in the state.
Nang Chen is an Entomologist and Arachnologist who is associated with Vienna’s museum of natural history. He’s also a consultant with real estate groups, insecticide conglomerates and law enforcement groups as a forensic entomologist. Nang Chen holds an M.S. from South China University and he’s a regular contributor to our site.