Adult kissing bugs range from about ¾ - 1 ¼ inches in length. Most species have a very characteristic band around the edge of the body that is striped with orange or red markings.
One species (Triatoma protracta) may or may not have a single colored band around the outer edge of the body. The legs of kissing bugs are long and thin. Unlike some other species, the legs are uniformly thin along the length of the leg, and there are no 'bulging' thicker areas on the legs. Kissing bugs have distinctive mouthparts that appear as a large black extension to the head. These mouthparts give rise to the nickname 'Cone-nose bug'.
There are 11 different species of kissing bugs in United States. The most common species in the south-central United States are Triatoma sanguisuga and Triatoma gerstaeckeri, which are each about 1 inch long.
Kissing bugs are members of the Reduviidae family of insects. Other reduviids that are similar in appearance (see examples at the 'non-kissing bug' page) feed on plants and other insects and can inflict a painful bite when disturbed, however only kissing bugs are known to transmit the Chagas parasite.
Kissing bugs develop onto adults after a series of immature life stages called nymphs, and both nymphs and adults engage in bloodfeeding behavior. Bugs feed on diverse wild and domestic animals including wild rodents, other wild mammals, and domestic dogs.