Kissing bugs seem to be a hot topic with local media in the past month.
Atlanta television news programs and social media posts have misled many people into believing kissing bugs are a danger to Georgians. However, much of the hype with this insect is not warranted.
Kissing bugs are native to Georgia.
The headlines surrounding kissing bugs recently are due to a parasite the bugs are known to have that causes Chagas disease.
While it sickens many people in Central and South America every year, it is extremely rare in the United States.
According to UGA Entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle, kissing bugs are not deadly and most of them are not infected with the parasite responsible for Chagas disease.
The only time you should be concerned about contracting Chagas disease is if you are cleaning up wild mammal nests, such as skunk or raccoon, because this is where kissing bugs normally live.
Chagas disease is only transmitted to humans through contact with the feces of the kissing bug to an open wound or your eyes.
It would be very hard for any American to contract the disease unless they lived on the ground in the woods and had wild animals living with them.
These conditions are, unfortunately, much more common in Central and South America.
Apparently some news broadcasts have suggested that the University of Georgia would like to have any kissing bug sightings submitted to them.
This is not the case.
This may have been a misinterpretation of a recent Texas A&M Vet School study.
They are asking for kissing bug samples, but only along the Texas border with Mexico, an area where Chagas disease is known to occur.
Ironically, having citizens collect kissing bugs increases human exposure to possible Chagas disease infection. Maybe that isn't the wisest idea.
I have had several people call my office and report possible kissing bugs crawling around their houses. A few have brought in bugs, but they turned out to be wheel bugs, a harmless relative of the kissing bug.
Wheel bugs are tan to brown and have a ride of spines, similar to half of a cog wheel, in the center of their backs. Kissing bugs are flatter and have a black and tan striped border on their backs.
This time of year is very common for insects of all kinds to crawl into your home. As outside temperatures fall, insects find their way inside to escape the cold weather.
Don't be alarmed if you encounter an insect that looks like a kissing bug.
The best way to keeps insects out of your home is with prevention. Seal around your doors and windows with weather stripping, and turn off your porch lights at night to avoid attracting insects.