Stink Bug Vs Kissing Bugs – What To Know

Bugs. Some like them, some hate them. However, most would likely agree that when they intrude in our homes and yards, it is a problem in need of addressing. 

Two bugs that can sometimes be confused with the other are the stink and kissing bugs. Although somewhat similar in size and shape, they have important differences. 

Let’s discuss stink bugs vs kissing bugs in detail so you know just what they are and the differences between them. We will cover the following: 

  • What is a stinkbug? 
  • What is a kissing bug?
  • Which one are you more likely to find in your home?
  • Where in your home/property are you most likely to find them?
  • Is one worse than the other? 
  • What should be done when one or more of these bugs is present?
  • Do stinkbugs kill and/or eat kissing bugs?

Stink Bugs

While there are multiple types of stink bugs, the one most commonly encountered is the brown marmorated stink bug, which is what we will be referring to in this article.

They are a light brown color, with specks of black, gray, and white along their bodies (including some white on the antennae). When grown, they are approximately 1/2 inch in length. They also have two pairs of wings on their backs. 

Stink bugs are usually mating during the warmer months of the year, and enter a phase called diapause during the winter, where their development is effectively paused. They might seek shelter indoors or outdoors during this time. 

Stink bugs do not bite people or animals, and their food source consists of fruits and vegetables. They have an affinity for plant leaves, soybeans, and various fruits. 

They are found throughout the United States in up to 41 states. 

Kissing Bugs

Like stink bugs, there are multiple species of kissing bugs. Two of the more common are called Triatoma sanguisuga and Triatoma protracta

They are usually a black or very dark brown color, with red, orange, or yellow stripes around the body’s edges. They are typically larger than stink bugs, at about 1 inch in length.

They have a cone-shaped head, which has sometimes earned them the nickname of conenose bugs

Some kissing bugs will live indoors, but most of the time they live outdoors, hidden by day and feeding by night. In contrast to the plant-based diets of stink bugs, kissing bugs feed on the blood of their hosts.  

To feed, a kissing bug will bite their target (which might be a human or an animal) to draw blood. Note that this is often painless for people.

Kissing bugs are rarer than stink bugs, being most commonly found in the southern portions of the United States, including both the Southwest and Southeast regions. This is due to their preference for warm climates.

Which One is More Likely to Be in My Home?

As previously noted, stink bugs are overall more common than kissing bugs, so in terms of simple chance, you are more likely to see a stink bug than a kissing bug inside your house.

However, if you live in warmer climates where kissing bugs are likely to reside, your chances of encountering this bug increase. 

Both bugs can be found outside in piles of debris, wood, etc. However, stink bugs are also known to dwell in basements and attics, as well as small cracks and crevices in buildings.

This is especially relevant during the transition from warm to cool weather when the stink bugs are seeking refuge. You might find them in your windows and doorways, seemingly trying to gain access. 

Kissing bugs, on the other hand, are known to primarily live outdoors. However, they have been known to be found inside, especially in cracks/crevices and in bedrooms.

The bedroom makes sense as the bugs feed at night, and sleeping humans make for a good host! 

In sum, you are more likely to see a stink bug in general, but in southern states, the chances of a kissing bug presence increases.

The importance of seeking shelter for diapause, however, makes it more likely you will see the stink bugs when autumn arrives as they attempt to hide away for winter. Meanwhile, kissing bugs prefer to emerge at night and are therefore less visible overall

Where in My Home Will I Find Them?

As stated above, both bugs like unsealed cracks and crevices, so if your home has any of these weak spots, they are an attractive spot for the bugs to reside. They are also known to be found outside in the surrounding property. 

For example, they might be in piles of wood or debris, underneath your porch, or inside pet housing (such as dog kennels or chicken coops). 

Indoors, you might find stink bugs in an attic or basement. It is not uncommon to find them in doorways and windowsills as well, as they prepare for diapause.

They might be on your window screens between the glass and the actual outside. 

Kissing bugs naturally want to be close to the hosts they rely on for food.

While they might be outside and feeding on animals (if you live on a farm, they are likely to be near cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, etc., as they need these animals to survive), if you are their target, the bedroom and its nooks and crannies are a good hideaway for them. 

Is One Bug Worse Than The Other?

Absolutely! Kissing bugs can transmit Chagus disease.

Warning: The method of transmission might be somewhat gross for some readers!

When a kissing bug bites, they also defecate (poop). In their poop is often a parasite that can transmit Chagus disease.

If the poop enters the bite, or is somehow rubbed into a mucous membrane (like the eye, for instance), the person or animal might become infected

Note: Not all kissing bugs transmit this disease, but because some do, always be cautious when you believe you are in the presence of a kissing bug. 

So just what is this disease? It is divided into an acute and chronic stage. In the acute stage, a person might or might not have symptoms.

This stage lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months after initial infection, and symptoms, if they occur often mirror that of the cold or flu (fever, headaches, body aches, diarrhea, etc.). 

A unique sign is eyelid swelling, which is attributed to a reaction after the parasite was inadvertently rubbed into the eye. Further, medical testing might reveal other, subtle signs such as an enlarged liver or spleen.

For the next months, years, or even an entire lifetime, the disease is in the chronic stage. Somewhere between 20-30% of people can experience heart or stomach problems, some of which can be fatal (cardiac arrest or heart failure, for example).

Do note, though, that this is the minority of people (20-30%) who have been infected. 

In good news, the infection can be treated with an antiparasitic medication and should be done to avoid possible complications.

If you or someone you know is immunocompromised, elderly, or very young, the risk of severe symptoms increases. 

What Should I do If I See One of These Bugs?

If you see a stink bug, a good idea is to double-check your home and seal off any cracks you find. Do not crush the bug for it will release its unpleasant odor.

Instead, you can vacuum them up or seal them off in a container for removal. 

A good prevention method is using essential oils like mint and spraying them around entrances. This serves to repel the bugs. 

If you see a kissing bug, do not touch it!

Remember that they have the potential to make you ill. The CDC suggests putting a container over it, then sealing the said container.

Following this, it is recommended to transport the bug to a local laboratory (you might have a CDC extension nearby, a university, or the local health department), so the bug can be tested for Chagas disease.

Do Kissing Bugs Kill and/or Eat Stink Bugs?

There are no known cases of attacks on stink bugs by kissing bugs. This makes sense, considering the kissing bugs rely on hosts, and stink bugs are not a suitable target like people or other animals are. 

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

Are Stink Bugs Poisonous? – Well, It’s Complicated

What Are Stink Bugs Good For? 7 Things You Didn’t Know

Where Are Brown Stink Bugs From?

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

Recent Posts