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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/43

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35
SPIDER BITES AND KISSING BUGS.

he was temporarily insane owing to the bite of the "kissing bug." Entomologists all through the East were also much overworked answering questions asked them about the mysterious creature. Men of local entomological reputations were applied to by newspaper reporters, by their friends, by people who knew them, in church, on the street, and under all conceivable circumstances. Editorials were written about it. Even the Scientific American published a two-column article on the subject; and, while no international complications have resulted as yet, the kissing bug, in its own way and in the short space of two months, produced almost as much of a scare as did the San José scale in its five years of Eastern excitement. Now, however, the newspapers have had their fun, the necessary amount of space has been filled, and the subject has assumed a castaneous hue, to Latinize the slang of a few years back.

The experience has been a most interesting one. To the reader familiar with the old accounts of the hysterical craze of south Europe, based upon supposed tarantula bites, there can not fail to come the suggestion that we have had in miniature and in modernized form, aided largely by the newspapers, a hysterical craze of much the same character. From the medical and psychological point of view this aspect is interesting, and deserves investigation by competent persons.

As an entomologist, however, the writer confines himself to the actual authors of the bites so far as he has been able to determine them. It seems undoubtedly true that while there has been a great cry there has been very little wool. It is undoubtedly true, also, that there have been a certain number of bites by heteropterous insects, some of which have resulted in considerable swelling. It seems true that Melanotestis picipes and Opsicostes personatus have been more numerous than usual this year, at least around Washington. They have been captured in a number of instances while biting people, and have been brought to the writer's office for determination in such a way that there can be no doubt about the accuracy of this statement. As the story went West, bites by Conorhinus sanguisuga and Rasatus thoracicus were without doubt termed "kissing-bug" bites. With regard to other cases, the writer has known of an instance where the mosquito bite upon the lip of a sleeping child produced a very considerable swelling. Therefore he argues that many of these reported cases may have been nothing more than mosquito bites. With nervous and excitable individuals the symptoms of any skin puncture become exaggerated not only in the mind of the individual but in their actual characteristics, and not only does this refer to cases of skin