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How Do Bloodsuckers Get the Blood Out?

Bloodsuckers use different kinds of mouthparts to get blood out of hosts. (An exception are leeches which have no mouthparts.)

Check out these groups of bloodsuckers:

Poke and Suck

Slash and Lap


Poke and Suck Mouthparts

Some poke with a needle-like proboscis then use it as a straw to suck blood.

KISSING BUG Kissing Bug - Tx Dept State Health Services

Kissing bugs get their name because they often bite near the lips.  When animals sleep they exhale carbon dioxide and that attracts kissing bugs to the host’s mouth.

Kissing bugs are also called “Assassin bugs” because they “assassinate” (kill) other bugs. But that’s good news for us because the bugs they kill and eat are often pests that damage our crops. Too bad kissing bugs/assassin bugs only need to eat about once every three weeks!

Where do they live?
They often live where crops are grown or near houses.

We tend to find kissing bugs more often in south Texas.

Lone Star Tick male - Tx Dept State Health ServicesTICKS

Lone Star Tick female - Tx Dept State Health Services

Ticks don’t have true heads, just barbed mouthparts that they stick into the host. Ticks create a cement-like substance to glue themselves on and can’t leave until they fill up, even if they want to!  

In Texas, there are two types of ticks: hard ticks and soft ticks.  You are probably more apt to see a hard tick since soft ticks live in burrows and places where birds reside.

There are four kinds of hard ticks in Texas. Some ticks can be the vector of Lyme Disease. A vector carries a disease, but does not actually have the disease itself.

Some types of ticks can live up to 200 days without food or water! And some kinds of ticks can live up to two years!

Check out this cool site to learn more about ticks:

You don't need to be afraid to be outdoors because of ticks! Just remember:

  • Before you head out to the woods, brush, or grassy areas where ticks live, ask an adult to help you put on bug repellent with DEET in it.
  • Stop often to check for ticks. Wearing light colors makes them easier to spot.
  • Check your pets for ticks, especially during hot weather.
  • If a tick has attached itself to you, tell an adult as soon as you notice. Don’t squish it or try to remove it yourself! There’s a special way to remove ticks and you don’t want goo from its guts to get on you.
  • If you get a rash that looks like a bull’s eye or feel like you’ve got the flu, tell an adult. 

Where do they live?

Soft ticks live in nests, burrows, and caves

Hard ticks live in bushes and on mammals such as deer.

Asian Tiger Mosquito - Tx Dept State Health ServicesMOSQUITOES

Next time a mosquito makes you itch, you can say “Ouch, she poked me!” because, like many other bloodsuckers, the females need a blood meal before they can lay their eggs. The rest of the time they suck up plant juices with the males. Males only live about a week, while the ladies last 4-8 weeks.  

Check out this really cool photograph of the tip of a female proboscis by artist/photographer Dennis Kunkel: Amazing, isn’t it?  Mr. Kunkel had to use a very special lens to take that photograph.

Where do they live?

Mosquitoes live in water until they are adults. Then, they don't actually have a regular home, they just hang out on branches or leaved or wherever they stop when they are tired and need to rest.

Cat Flea - Tx Dept State Health ServicesFLEAS

The most common flea in Texas is the cat flea, but they’ll gladly suck the blood of dogs and people, too. Fleas are such expert jumpers that they can leap from one end of a cat’s tail to the other!

Their specially shaped flat bodies allow them to move easily through the hair of their hosts. Adult fleas eat blood, but the babies’ first meal is their parents’ poop. Yum, yum! NOT!

Where do they live?

Baby fleas live on cats, dogs, and deer until they are able to jump off.  Adult fleas live in the grass or in carpet where they wait until they are hungry again. When they are hungry again and a host comes near, the adults will jump onto the host and eat until they are full. When they are full, they will jump off again and chill out for awhile.

Bed Bug - H.J. Harlan, AFPMBBED BUGS

Ever heard the saying, “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite?” That’s because bed bugs only come out at night while we’re sleeping.

It takes a bed bug about 10 minutes to fill up (become engorged) and it won’t need to eat again for several days.  In fact, adults can survive for up to a year without blood!

Females lay 3 or 4 sticky eggs every single day near where humans sleep, since our blood is their favorite feast.

It used to be that it was unusual (we mean not normal) to find bed bugs in the United States. However, today it is becoming a problem. 

Wait! Don't freak out! Clean your room! Yes, that's right...clean your room!

One of the best ways to keep them out of your bedroom is to keep your room clean. That means keeping dirty dishes and clothes picked up and put away. It also means checking under your mattress and along the wall for these reddish-brown bugs and their babies. If you see any, tell an adult right away.

Where do they live?

Bed bugs live in tiny cracks in walls and under carpets, and under mattress seams. Check out this video about them. Beware - it's kind of creepy!

Slash and Lap Mouthparts
Some make a slash with a sharp mouthpart and lap up the blood, like a sponge soaks up water.


Horseflies look like huge supercharged flies. You can guess where they get their name....but, hold those reins...horseflies actually dine on cattle more than horses. And brown and black cows beware! Moving and dark objects make favorite targets. Only females about to lay eggs eat blood otherwise they dine on nectar with the guys.


Where do they live?
 Horseflies like to live around farms and horse stalls and places where we keep cattle.

Deer Fly - AFPMB


Only female deer flies chomp on hosts and only when the time comes to lay eggs – up to 1000 at one time! Otherwise, these girls eat nectar just like the boys. They get their name from their favorite host: deer.

Where do they live?
Deer flies prefer to live near plants, especially those that produce flowers.


Head Louse - Tx Dept State Health ServicesThe word “lice” is a plural word.  Do you remember what “plural” means? It means “more than one.” So, “lice” refers to more than one bug. The word “lice” refers to two or more of these kinds of bloodsuckers. A “louse” is just one of this kind of bloodsucker.

Each tiny louse is about as big as the period in this sentence. That makes them tough to find.  Some types of lice live only on humans (in our hair), while others live on different animals. That’s why you can’t get lice from your dog or cat. A louse cannot hop or fly from one host to another. To move they must crawl.

The kinds of lice that live in our hair are called head lice. They feed on human blood and will die within 24 hours (that’s 1 day) if they fall off your scalp.  But, chances are they won’t fall off and if you get them you will need a special shampoo and comb to get them off.  That’s why it is not a good idea to share brushes or combs with other people. 

Each louse lays 8-10 eggs per day!  An egg is called a “nit.”  These nits make your scalp itch a lot!

Check out this silly and fun website and learn more about lice:

Where do they live?

The head lice that eat human blood live in our scalp...that’s our head, where our hair grows. Since they actually live on another animal (in this case, us!) we call them parasites. 

They have no mouthparts!


Leeches are really different from other bloodsuckers because they don’t really use mouths to get blood from hosts. They use super strong suckers to attach themselves to a host and suck on its skin until some blood comes through.

As painful as that sounds, leeches actually don’t really harm skin and you can easily pull them off.   Not all leeches in Texas suck blood, but those that do like fish and turtle blood best.

Where do they live?
Leeches live in water and look like slugs.