Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wheel Bug

Here’s a nice insect with a dinosaur look to it. This is the Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, the largest of our local assassin bugs. It’s a predator that stalks the plants looking for insect prey. It prefers to prey on soft bodied insects, but I’ve seen it tackle a wide range of prey items.

The common name comes from this raised area of the thorax that resembles a cogged wheel.

The Wheel Bug is a true bug as evidenced by that tube shaped beak folded beneath the head. Insect prey is held by the strong forelegs while that beak is used to suck the prey dry. Although not normally aggressive to humans, the bug will bite if picked up and tightly held. The bite can be quite painful and result in a burning sensation that lasts for several minutes.

These bugs like to prowl about on flower heads where they’re likely to capture butterflies, bees and flies. They’re also good at zeroing in on areas containing leaf eating larvae.

The Wheel Bug’s flower to flower hunting technique makes it a fairly effective pollinator. The hairy legs have turned yellow from their pollen load.


  1. Wow! I've lived in Ohio for 47 years and have never seen one of these fellows. Very cool... If I ever see one, I'll look but not touch. Do you know about that burning sensation from experience? :-)

  2. Second hand experience. I've witnessed people annoy this bug and suffer the consequences.