Rhodnius prolixus is the principal triatominevector of the Chagas parasite due to both its sylvatic and domestic populations in northern South America as well as to its exclusively domestic populations in Central America. It has a wide range of ecotopes, mainly savanna and foothills with an altitude of between 500 meters to 1,500 meters (1600 feet to 4,900 feet) above sea level and temperatures of 16 °C to 28 °C (61 °F to 82 °F). Sylvatic R. prolixus, as virtually all Rhodnius spp., is primarily associated with palm tree habitats and has a wide range of hosts including birds, rodents, marsupials, sloths, and reptiles.
The insect has five larval stages, with a moult between each. Each larval stage consumes a single large meal of blood, which triggers the moulting process, 12–15 days later. Wigglesworth demonstrated that the moult is started by a hormone secreted into the blood by a gland in the brain. Further it was demonstrated that the corpora allata secrete the juvenile hormone which prevents the premature development into an adult. The removal of the head during any larval stage causes early development into an adult, whereas the implantation of a juvenile head during the fifth larval stage results in a giant sixth stage larva.