Kissing Bug Infestation in a Garden

Milkweed assassin bug (via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Kissing bug or assassin bug infestations in a garden can cause significant damage to plants and crops, as well as spread disease to humans and animals. These pests feed on the sap from stems and leaves, causing wilting and death of the affected plants. They are also known to spread Chagas disease, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.


  • Yellowing and wilting of leaves and stems, followed by death of the affected plants
  • Stunted growth of plants and reduced crop yields
  • Presence of brown or black excrement near feeding sites, which can appear as small droplets or streaks on leaves or stems
  • Swelling or distortion of plant tissues near feeding sites, including deformed leaves and stems
  • Formation of scabs or lesions on plant tissues near feeding sites, which can be covered in brown or black excrement
  • Stunted fruit development or misshapen fruit
  • Reduced overall vigor of the affected plants and crops.

It is important to note that these symptoms can be caused by other factors as well, so a thorough inspection of the garden and proper identification of the pest is necessary to confirm a kissing bug infestation.

What is a Kissing Bug

  • Triangular shaped head with large compound eyes
  • Long, thin antennae, typically longer than the length of its body
  • Conical shaped body with a flattened appearance and soft, velvety texture
  • Reddish-brown or black color with patterned markings on the wings and body, which may include stripes, spots, or splotches
  • Approximately 1-2 cm in length, with wings that extend beyond the body when at rest
  • Long, thin legs with prominent spines or hairs on the surface
  • Mouthparts that are designed for piercing and sucking plant sap.

Treating a Kissing Bug Infestation

It may be necessary to use a combination of these methods to effectively treat a kissing bug infestation in a garden. For example, applying an insecticide in combination with physical control measures such as sticky bands may provide more complete control. Additionally, monitoring the garden regularly after treatment is important to detect any resurgence of the pest population and treat promptly if necessary.

Chemical control

  • Selecting an appropriate insecticide: Choose an insecticide that specifically targets piercing and sucking insects, such as pyrethroids or neonicotinoids. Read and follow all label instructions carefully, including timing and frequency of application, protective measures for humans and non-target species.
  • Application methods: Insecticide sprays can be applied directly to the affected plants and surrounding area. Systemic insecticides are absorbed into the plant and provide long-term control.
  • Timing: Treat infestations as soon as possible, while the pests are still in the immature stages and easier to control. Repeat applications may be necessary to maintain control, especially for systemic insecticides which may not provide immediate knockdown of the pests.
  • Monitoring: Regularly monitor the garden for signs of infestation after treatment and reapply insecticide as necessary.

Cultural control

  • Plant health: Maintain healthy plants by providing proper watering, fertilization, and pruning. This will help reduce the susceptibility of plants to kissing bug feeding damage.
  • Sanitation: Remove and destroy any dead or severely damaged plants to reduce habitat for the pests. Keep the garden free of weeds and debris, which can provide hiding places for the bugs.
  • Monitoring: Regularly inspect the garden for signs of infestation and treat promptly if necessary.

Physical control

  • Sticky bands: Wrap sticky bands or sticky cards around the stems of affected plants to trap and kill the bugs as they move from plant to plant. Replace the sticky bands regularly to maintain their effectiveness.
  • Hand picking: Hand pick and destroy any visible bugs and their eggs. This method is best used in combination with other control measures, as it may not be effective on its own for large infestations.
  • Exclusion: Use row covers or fine mesh screens to physically exclude the bugs from the garden. Ensure that the covers or screens are tightly sealed at the edges to prevent the bugs from entering.