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Eastern Blood-sucking Conenose - Triatoma sanguisuga

Eastern Blood-sucking Conenose - Triatoma sanguisuga
Durham County, North Carolina, USA
July 13, 2004
This is, most likely, the Eastern Bloodsucking Conenose, Triatoma sanguisuga,--see comments.

Images of this individual: tag all
Eastern Bloodsucking Conenose - Triatoma sanguisuga Eastern Blood-sucking Conenose - Triatoma sanguisuga

I agree
Triatoma are strictly vertebrate blood-feeders. This species at least is closely associated with wood rats (Neotoma sp. commonly known as "pack rats"). Nymphs go through eight (8) instars, and can take up to three years to mature! Adults disperse and mate for a relatively brief period, and are attracted to lights at night, then sometimes enter the house and end up feeding on the resident vertebrates (us!).

triatoma sanguisuga et al
Might be a good idea to let some epidemiologists or even the CDC know you found this bugger, where, how, etc.. This is one of the species known to carry trypanosoma cruzi, the cause of Chagas disease. Your specimen should be tested if still intact, or look for another.

Chagas is a horrible illness, almost 100% fatal for most victims historically. Very few human cases have ever been reported in the US, and most of them perhaps picked it up in Central or South America...but infected bugs have been caught in Northern Florida during the last 15 years, and more people are camping out,hiking, hunting, or going homeless and roughing it than ever before (or at least since the Hobo era). So who knows if this one is going to surge with all the folks coming from infected areas who may get bitten by the conenosed bloodsuckers (or other members of an ecological chain) that then also bite other hosts that then get bitten by bloodsuckers...

My wife comes from an upper class family in Valencia, Venezuela. In her country, the deadly triatoma species is maculata, and other similar insects like rhodnius prolixis...generically, the people call these "vincucha" or chupones (suckers). From 1% to 5% of the population in mainly rural poor areas is infected at any time. Other blood suckers can pick up the chagas vector, to some extent, too, and the fces of infected animals and persons is dangerous.

Chagas not usually an issue in North America
This is a widespread species in Eastern North America, and its occurrence at this locality is unremarkable. The information I have been able to find indicates that though North American species of this genus may carry the Triatoma parasite, they do not normally transmit Chagas' disease. See Kissing bugs (Triatoma) and the skin (Dermatology Online Journal), quoting:

The mechanism of infection from Chagas' disease is not via feeding but instead through contamination of the wound or other bodily portals by fecal material during or shortly after feeding. Although North American Triatoma species have tested positive for T. cruzi, Chagas' disease is much less of a concern in the U.S. because the North American Triatoma delay defecation until 20-30 minutes post-feeding. By this time, they are usually no longer in contact with the sleeping human.

The CDC page on Chagas' Disease says that "Rare vectorborne cases of Chagas disease have been noted in the southern United States". So it is a rare occurrence in this area.

That's the best information I have, at any rate.

Agreed. Chagas' disease is not transferred directly from the process of feeding unless the vector deficates near the spot where the skin has been broken. Even then there is no assurance of transfer of the parasite. Usually infection occurs when a conenose feeds, deficates near the feeding site, and then the feces is placed directly over the open wound via the person scratching or rubbing the area.

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