Taxonomy

Members of the heteropteran family Reduviidae are commonly called assassin bugs because most species attack and feed on other insects. There are 22 subfamilies in the Reduviidae, including the Triatominae, or kissing bugs. Keys for identification of triatomine species are given by Lent and Wygodzinsky (1979).

The Triatominae is divided into 5 tribes and 14 genera; 106 species are known only from the New World, 5 species (Linshcosteus) are found only in India, and 7 species (Triatoma) are known only from Southeast Asia. The only species found in Africa is Triatoma rubrofasci-ata; it is found throughout the tropics, presumably having spread worldwide via ships.

The New World triatomine species occur from just south of the Great Lakes region of the United States to southern Argentina, with all but a few species concentrated in subtropical and tropical regions. The latter areas are considered the likely places of origin for the subfamily. All triatomines have the potential to transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiologic agent of Chagas disease. Of the 119 described triatomine species, about half have been shown to be vectors, and about a dozen of these are considered vectors of major epidemiological importance (Table II).

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