Wheel bugs are fascinating creatures with unique characteristics, such as the prominent cog-like ‘wheel’ on their thorax, making them easy to identify. You might be curious about what these insects eat and how their diet impacts the environment around them.
These large insects, also known as Arilus cristatus, are actually members of the assassin bug family. This means that their diet mainly consists of other insects, including those that are considered pests. Wheel bugs are beneficial predators in gardens, helping to control unwanted insect populations. Some examples of their prey are caterpillars, beetles, and even other assassin bugs.
So when you encounter wheel bugs in your backyard, remember that they are more helpful than harmful. Their diet primarily consists of pest insects, playing a role in protecting your garden from unwanted damage. Just be cautious around them, as their bite can be quite painful.
What are Wheel Bugs?
Wheel bugs, also known as Arilus cristatus, are a type of insect belonging to the Hemiptera order and the Heteroptera suborder, specifically the Reduviidae family. These insects are native to the United States, Mexico, and can be found as north as Maryland and as south as Texas. As a part of the Arilus genus, they share some similarities with their close relative, Arilus gallus.
These fascinating creatures are known for their unique appearance. On their back, they have a distinct semi-circular crest – hence the name “wheel bug.” This crest resembles half of a cogwheel, giving them a rather prehistoric look.
As for their size, wheel bugs can grow up to 1.5 inches, making them one of the largest insects in the Reduviidae family. Here are some characteristics of wheel bugs:
- They have piercing and sucking mouthparts called “rostrums.”
- Their wings develop later in life, after they transition from nymphs to adults.
- They sport a brownish-gray color, with some individuals showcasing red or orange markings.
- The nymphs, or juvenile forms, are bright red and black.
When it comes to their role in the ecosystem, wheel bugs are considered beneficial insects. Why? They are excellent predators, helping control the population size of many garden pests. Some common prey for wheel bugs include:
- Japanese beetles
- Stink bugs
However, it’s important to watch out for their bite. Although not aggressive towards humans, if mishandled or threatened, wheel bugs can deliver a painful bite that may cause a burning sensation and swelling. So remember, if you encounter a wheel bug, it’s best to admire from a safe distance and let this beneficial insect do its part in keeping pest populations in check.
Wheel Bugs’ Diet
Wheel bugs are known predators of various insects. As a part of their diet, they consume a diverse range of pests, granting them the status of beneficial insects. Some examples of their prey include:
- Cucumber beetles
- Squash bugs
- Lady beetles
- Japanese beetles
- Brown marmorated stink bugs
The wheel bug uses its straw-like mouthparts to pierce and suck the bodily fluids from its victims, rendering them extremely effective predators. They are particularly fond of soft-bodied insects like caterpillars and aphids, which they can eliminate in high numbers.
Moreover, wheel bugs can also prey on larger insects such as beetles and wasps. As an essential part of the ecosystem, their predatory nature helps maintain a balance in the insect population. Consequently, they contribute significantly to controlling pests that threaten your garden or crops.
You may sometimes see wheel bugs preying on seemingly beneficial insects, such as bees or lady beetles. While this could be a concern, keep in mind that the wheel bug’s overall impact on pest control tends to outweigh potential disadvantages.
In conclusion, the wheel bug’s diet consists of a wide variety of insect prey, including many harmful pests. Their predatory behavior helps maintain healthy insect populations and control destructive pests in gardens and agricultural settings.
Wheel Bugs Hunting Strategies
Wheel bugs, belonging to the assassin bug family, are known for their efficient hunting skills. They primarily feed on other insects, using their unique and deadly strategies to catch their prey. Let’s take a closer look at their hunting techniques.
These bugs are excellent predators, mainly hunting caterpillars, wasps, spiders, and other insects. They use their front legs to grasp their victims tightly. The impressive camouflage abilities of the wheel bugs allow them to blend in with their surroundings, waiting patiently to ambush their prey.
Upon spotting a target, wheel bugs pierce their prey with a powerful proboscis, injecting potent venom to immobilize them. The venom also helps in liquefying the insides of the prey, making it easier for the wheel bug to consume its meal.
Nymphs, the immature stage of wheel bugs, engage in similar hunting strategies. However, they must be cautious and avoid other predators, such as parasitic wasps or praying mantises, who might find young wheel bugs to be an attractive meal.
In summary, the wheel bug’s success as a hunter is attributed to its:
- Ambushing and camouflage skills
- Strong front legs for grasping prey
- Venom-injecting proboscis
Stay cautious around wheel bugs, as their bite can be painful for humans. However, remember that they are playing an essential role in controlling pest populations and preserving the balance within their ecosystem.
Wheel Bugs and Their Environment
Wheel bugs are fascinating creatures that play a crucial role in their ecosystem. As members of the assassin bug family, they mainly thrive by controlling pest populations. You might find them in a variety of habitats, from forest edges to vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
In the United States, these bugs are more commonly found in places with warmer climates, such as Florida. However, they’re also known to overwinter, ensuring their survival in cooler regions during the fall season. Though not native to India, their presence may still be beneficial in gardens across the globe.
Here are some key characteristics of wheel bugs:
- Distinctive appearance: They feature a cog-like crest or “wheel” on their thorax, making them easy to identify.
- Size: Wheel bugs grow up to 1 1/2 inches long, making them one of the largest assassin bugs.
And, their preferred habitat includes:
- Vegetation: Forest edges, garden spaces, and fruit trees provide ample hiding spots and food sources.
- Predator-prey interactions: With a diverse array of prey including caterpillars and beetles, wheel bugs help maintain a balance in the ecosystem.
During the nighttime, wheel bugs may be drawn to lights, similar to other nocturnal insects. It’s essential to recognize their benefits as they contribute to a healthier environment by preying on potentially harmful insects in your garden.
Now that you’re familiar with wheel bugs and their environment, try to appreciate their unique presence in your surroundings as they play an important role in maintaining the balance of nature.
Wheel Bugs and Bites
Wheel bugs are fascinating insects that play a crucial role in controlling pest populations. They feed on a wide variety of insects, such as caterpillars, Japanese beetles, and even stink bugs, making them beneficial predators in the ecosystem. These unique bugs can be easily identified by the cog-like wheel on their backs.
However, it’s essential to be cautious around wheel bugs, as their bites can be quite painful. When wheel bugs feel threatened, they can deliver a painful bite that contains venom, much like a sting. The intensity of the pain might vary from one person to another, but it’s generally more severe than a bee sting. Though not venomous like some other insects, their bites may cause symptoms such as swelling, numbness, and reddish lesions on the skin.
It’s important to remember that wheel bugs aren’t aggressive towards humans, and bites usually occur when they feel cornered or accidentally touched. To avoid being bitten, it’s best to leave these intriguing creatures to their pest control duties and treat them with caution if you encounter them.
As a summary, consider these key points about wheel bugs and their bites:
- Wheel bugs prey on various insects, helping control pest populations
- Easily identified by the distinctive cog-like wheel on their backs
- Their bites can be more painful than a bee sting
- Bites might cause symptoms like swelling, numbness, and reddish lesions
- Usually not aggressive towards humans, but will bite if threatened
In conclusion, wheel bugs serve as effective natural pest controllers and are fascinating creatures that you can appreciate from a safe distance. By understanding their role and treating them with caution, you can avoid the risk of painful bites and appreciate their contribution to a balanced ecosystem.
Life Cycle of Wheel Bugs
Wheel bug eggs are typically laid in clusters on tree bark or leaves. The female deposits her eggs in a hexagonal pattern. Once they hatch, tiny red nymphs emerge, ready to begin their journey toward becoming adult wheel bugs.
As nymphs, wheel bugs go through several instars, or molting stages. Each time they molt, they grow bigger and more closely resemble their adult form. Nymphs of wheel bugs are voracious predators and primarily feed on soft-bodied insects helping to control their population in gardens and forests.
Adults and Mating
When wheel bugs reach adulthood, they become even more effective predators, feeding on a wide range of insects, including caterpillars and beetles. These light gray to grayish-brown insects grow up to 1-1/2 inches long and have a distinct, cog-like “wheel” on their thorax, which gives them their name source.
Adult wheel bugs mate during the fall, and the females start laying their eggs soon after. Once the female has laid her eggs, the life cycle of the wheel bug starts anew, with a new generation of nymphs hatching in the spring.
In conclusion, understanding the life cycle of wheel bugs is essential as they play a crucial role in controlling pest populations. So, if you spot these fascinating insects in your garden or backyard, remember their beneficial impact and give them space to continue their life cycle.
Wheel Bugs in Urban Areas
Wheel bugs can be beneficial in urban areas as they prey on various garden pests like stink bugs. They use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to consume these pests, reducing the need for chemicals in your garden.
However, wheel bugs can sometimes become a nuisance themselves. They may infiltrate your home, making you feel uneasy. Don’t worry about getting rid of them, as they don’t infest or damage buildings.
When you encounter wheel bugs in your garden, appreciate their role in controlling pests. In order to support these helpful bugs, avoid using chemical pest control measures when possible. Instead, opt for eco-friendly methods to maintain a healthy environment for both you and the wheel bugs.
Keep an eye on the wheel bug population in your area; if they become overly abundant, it’s time to take action. Consider calling a pest control expert to safely and effectively manage the situation.
Wheel Bugs’ Antagonistic Relations
Wheel bugs are known for their predatory nature. They feed on various insects, focusing their diet on pests such as stink bugs. These beneficial assassins can be found in regions like Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts due to their wide distribution.
Despite their usefulness, wheel bugs have a painful bite for those who encounter them. The bite can be compared to a hornet sting and is more severe than a bee sting. It’s useful for Wheel bugs as they require these defenses to protect themselves while hunting. So, even though they go after unwanted pests, it is still a good idea to give them space and avoid handling them.
Here’s a quick comparison of wheel bugs and hornets:
|Stink bugs, other insects
|1 to 1-1/2 inches
|Varies by species
|More severe than a bee sting
|Similar to a bee sting
|Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and more
|Worldwide, except Antarctica
In conclusion, while wheel bugs are helpful in controlling the population of pests like stink bugs, remember to keep a safe distance from them due to their painful bite.
Additional Facts About Wheel Bugs
In terms of insect identification, you can easily recognize wheel bugs by their unique appearance. They have a distinct cog-like structure on their thorax, which gives them their name 1. Their color ranges from light gray to bluish-gray or grayish-brown, and they measure over 1 1/4″ long 2.
Wheel bugs have a few fascinating features:
- Long antennae that help detect prey
- Membranous wings folded flat over their backs (X pattern) 3
- A three-segmented, straw-like rostrum used for piercing and sucking 3
These insects are not known for their flight capabilities, as they primarily move by crawling on trees and shrubs.
As beneficial insects, wheel bugs play an essential role in controlling the population of other insects such as caterpillars, beetles, and aphids. They use their rostrum to inject a toxin into their prey, which paralyzes and liquefies their insides. They then suck the contents out, effectively eliminating the target 1.
Interestingly, wheel bugs are also natural predators of insects that produce honeydew, a sugary substance that attracts ants and other pests 1.
In conclusion, wheel bugs are a valuable part of the ecosystem. Their unique features make them easy to identify, and their predatory behavior helps maintain a balance in the insect world. Remember to appreciate their presence and be aware that they can deliver a painful bite if threatened.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Location: Largo, FL
April 14, 2011 6:22 pm
While playing at a park in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, my daughter and I found this beauty. The park was in a very wooded area with slash pines and palmettos. I have been searching the internet, but could not identify this amazing animal. Thank you for any help you can provide.
Signature: Playground Mom
Dear Playground Mom,
When searching for letters to post this morning, we couldn’t resist a request from a Playground Mom to identify a Beautiful Mystery. When we have numerous identification requests, the catchy subject lines are always attractive to us. This is an immature Wheel Bug, and it should be handled with care. Wheel Bugs are predatory Assassin Bugs, and they are quite capable of biting if carelessly handled, though we get very few reports from people who have been bitten by Wheel Bugs.
Letter 2 – Wheel Bugs Hatching
Below you’ll find photos of an egg cluster and then what hatched out of it in eastern PA. The hatched bugs have stayed around while the others hatched. I would appreciate an identification.
These are newly hatched Wheel Bugs, a type of Assassin Bug. They are a predatory species that will help control the plant harming insects in your garden.
Letter 3 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Strange Black and Orange Bug
June 8, 2009
I found this bug on my back porch. He was hanging out on a bottle of WD-40. I thought it was a spider until I noticed it only had six legs. Can you possibly tell me what it is??
We are trying to catch up on mail that arrived while we were visiting relatives in Ohio. We love your photo of an immature Wheel Bug. Wheel Bugs are beneficial predators in the garden, though they may deliver a painful bite if mishandled. The adult Wheel Bug has a coglike projection on the thorax which gives it its common name.
Letter 4 – Wheelbug Nymph
_ Bug ID Please!
Any ideas? Found in Atlanta, GA, it is about the size (leg-span) of a nickel. It has six legs, two antenae, one fang, and a stinger-like tail that is red-orange around the edges, with little black dots in the red-orange, and the center being beige-like with a large black dot in the center of that. The fang and the antenae are both alternating red-orange and black sections. The body looks a little furry. Sorry the picture is through a "clear" tupperware container…
Your immature Wheelbug, one of the Assasin Bugs, will be winged after its final molt. There is no stinger, but that fanglike mouth can deliver a nasty bite..
Letter 5 – Preying Mantis eats Wheel Bug
praying mantis eating a wheel bug, unknown eggs
Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 9:12 PM
Just wanted to share this week’s playground “show” of a praying mantis DEVOURING a wheel bug. The class watched in horror/amazement. We had just seen our first wheel bug of this school year the day before.
We are also including a hatching photo we took this August. The eggs were stuck to the brick wall outside our classroom and we watched daily to see what was going to happen. We’d loved to know what was coming out! Thank you so much for your help!
Always looking for bugs,
Fours and fives in PA
Dear Teacher of Fours and Fives in PA,
We are gladdened to see that you have taken your classwork home and that your students will be able to find their answers online next week. Our only request is that in the future, you please don’t include multiple postings in one letter as it jumbles our already voluminous archives. Your Mantis photo is awesome in that it shows the Mantis devouring another beneficial predator. If the statistics were available, they might reveal that, since it pretty much sits higher up on the food chain, the Mantis may eat more beneficial insects than problematic ones. Since Mantids are often found on flowering plants, they consume their share of pollinators.
Letter 6 – Wheel Bug Nymph and Adult
Bug of the Month Fan!
Location: Westside of Indianapolis
November 6, 2010 7:44 pm
I was going to put this under the comment section, but there was no place to upload pictures! Just wanted to say how excited I am that you’ve chosen the Wheel Bug as the Bug of the Month! I sent in a picture to be identified back in Nov. 2008 and have followed my wheel bug family ever since!
These pictures are this year’s progeny–from baby to adult!
Your excitement is so refreshing. Our top of food chain bug predator at our Mt Washington, Los Angeles offices is the Green Lynx Spider, and we get the same wonderful sense of satisfaction and wonder at each new generation every year. Your photos are quite exceptional.
Letter 7 – Wheel Bug eats Japanese Beetle
Assassin bug dining on Japanese beetle
September 20, 2009
While out scouting for butterflies, I came upon this slightly grizzly scene of a wonderful assassin bug dining on a Japanese beetle. Glad it wasn’t me!
This was taken on June 30, 2009 in Orange County, VIRGINIA — the original OC 🙂
Lynne from Virginia
Orange County, Virginia
Thanks for sending your wonderful Food Chain documentation. More specifically, the Assassin Bug is a Wheel Bug. We are sure your photo will bring great joy to many gardeners who are plagued each year by the appearance of the scourge, the Japanese Beetle. The invasive exotic Japanese Beetle appears in great numbers each year and feeds on many ornamental and food plants, including roses. We have heard that this year in Ohio, the Japanese Beetles can still be found despite the late date.
Letter 8 – Wheel Bug eats Stink Bug!!!
Wow! You have turned me on to a whole new hobby…taking pictures of bugs and in particular cog-wheel assassins. I used to be afraid of them. They were so big, ugly, and scary looking. Your website confirmed my concern as I learned their bite hurt 10 times worse than a hornet. But there is another bug that I absolutely HATE…The Stinkbug. They rattle loudly while flying inside my home, they have no regard for my right-of-way, they cover the screens and block the sun from coming in the windows, and they smell awful when I squash them. Yes, I squash them. Today, my war against the dreaded stinkbug has gained an ally. See attached photos.
We realize it isn’t possible to love all insects especially ones that enter the home. I have a personal dislike for the Argentine Sugar Ants that invade my home every autumn. Great photo of a Wheel Bug feasting on a Stink Bug.
Letter 9 – Wheel Bug eats Bumble Bee
A beautiful bug!
My father sent me this beautiful picture of an assassin beetle (he identified it.) I was wondering if you could provide more information. Thank you.
Bug located in : Finleyville, PA
Assassin Bugs, like your Wheel Bug, are True Bugs, not Beetles. The Wheel Bug is Arilus cristatus. We have numerous photos and information on our Assassin Bug pages.
Letter 10 – Wheel Bug eats Japanese Beetle
Assassin bug eats japanese beetle!
Here a few pics of an sawtooth assassin bug chowing down on a japanese beetle. I just though you might like to add them to the archive. Have a great day,
We generally see this Assassin Bug called a Wheel Bug, but Sawtooth Bug also seems appropriate.
Letter 11 – Wheel Bug eats Japanese Beetle
Wheel bug eating a Japanese Beetle
Thought you might like to see the wheel bug in action. I live in northern Virginia and saw two wheel bugs fighting over this beetle. When I came back with my camera the winner was enjoying his meal. Now if I could just get him to eat the other 10,000 beetles in my flower garden….. Thanks for having such a wonderful site!
We have gotten numerous reports of Wheel Bugs feeding on Japanese Beetles this year, but your photo is the only visual documentation we have received. Thanks so much for sending in your dramatic images.
Letter 12 – Wheel Bugs Mating and Eating
You have a great site! I was shooting some pictures of our new terminal at the Indianapolis airport and saw this very weird bug. It turns out it was 3 bugs in one, I hope you can use the pictures. Thanks for helping me ID this thing.
We really love your image of Wheel Bugs mating and eating simultaneously.
Letter 13 – Wheel Bugs Mating
Oh no, not more Wheels!
Sorry, I know you guys have tons and tons of Wheel Bug pictures, but I thought I’d send these just in case you liked ’em. And who can resist insect pornography, really? I took these photos in Allentown, Pennsylvania at the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. The female looked like she was snacking on a Monarch Caterpillar when we found them, but they moved away from it before I could get it in the shot. It would make sense since they were on a milkweed plant, but aren’t those caterpillars poisonous?
We have to wonder what the Meese Commission would have to say about your photo. We are thrilled to post it and push the censorship envelope. Regarding Monarch Caterpillar, Milkweed does contain toxins and there are insects that can tolerate them, feeding on the plants. Certain predators have also built up a tolerance to the toxins. Also, some literature claims the milkweed merely renders the vegetarian who feast on it “distasteful”.
Letter 14 – Wheel Bug and Pink Striped Oakworm
My family and I were camping in Huntsville State Park, north of Houston, Texas, when we discovered many different "cool" bugs. The kids just loved them, and a couple made good photo candidates. I’m more of the mindset of, "Wow, what a neat bug. Let’s take a picture and move it away from our camp," rather than, "Wow, what IS that?" But if you do know what these two are I wouldn’t mind having the knowledge for future reference. Thank you! I’ve had a blast reading your site!
Brad, Kristen, Grace, Caroline & Beetle Rush
(& Max, Katy, Polly, Romeo, Franklin & the parakeets)
|Pink Striped Oakworm
Dear Rush Family,
You have some nice photos. The caterpillar is a PInk Striped Oakworm, Anisota virginiensis. It is one of the giant silkworms in the family Saturnidae. The other insect is a Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, one of the Assasin bugs. They are beneficial insects that eat plant eating insects, helping to keep populations in check. They can give a painful bite but it isn’t serious.
Letter 15 – Wheel Bug Nymphs
cannibal ant? spider? wasp?
Could you help me identify this bug that is living on our deck (in Columbia, Maryland) near my toddlers’ slide? They have shiny black heads and thoraxes with seemly smooth bright red abdomens. Six long delecate-looking legs and a pair of thinner antenna. Their dead comrades are all missing their abdomens. Whether coincidence or not they are congregated around bits of spiderweb-looking threads and there is a sac nearby their "hangout" as well. They may bite as I was bitten by an insect I am sure was an exact copy at a playground a few miles away. I checked around the web as well as your website and couldn’t find anything convincing. I appreciate your help!
Your have a wonderful photo of Wheel Bug Nymphs, Arilus cristatus, a type of Assassin Bug. They have a painful bite, as you know. They are beneficial insects as they prey upon garden pests. Just don’t touch.
Letter 16 – Wheel Bug
What is this bug?
I am glad I found your site and think this bug looks similar to the Western Conifer Seed Bug. Because of the shadow, you can see the ridged shoulder. Can you help us?
The Choe Family
Dear Choe Family,
Yours is the second fabulous Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, photo we received today. The Wheel Bug is a type of Assassin Bug. It is predatory on insects, but is capable of giving a person a painful bite if mishandled.
Letter 17 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Wheel Bug Nymph
I bought my girlfriend a Nikon D40x for her birthday, and we decided to try it out on Wednesday. We went for a nature walk in a wetlands park in southwestern ohio, and came upon this little bug sitting on a wooden post. I would have gotten a shot with it so for size, but crawly things give me the willies! I searched and searched for what it could be, and came upon your website. I believe it’s a Wheel bug Nymph, but I could be wrong! Thanks,
Yes, your are correct. This is a Wheel Bug Nymph. We hope your lucky girlfriend gets to take many more wonderful photos with her fabulous birthday gift.
Letter 18 – Wheel Bug trapped in Spider Web
Mean Looking Armored ?
September 13, 2009
I found this bug in a web on my fence walkthrough. I have never seen anything like it. 6 Legs, “Spiky armor” down it’s back. and it’s head is like a needle. This is one mean looking bug! I don;t know weather it made the web or just got caught in it. On it’s lower-side, very back there is a red spot and it seems that it’s dripping down the web in the photos.
West, Lafayette, Indiana
This is a predatory Wheel Bug and it is reported that the bite is quite painful. Wheel Bugs do not form webs and this individual has been trapped in a Spider’s Web.
Letter 19 – Wheel Bug Nymph
May 28, 2010
Spotted on May 28, 2010! This little mystery bug was spotted on my cat’s water bowl outside! I love bugs, but i’ve never seen this insect before. His abdomen is upturned in a strange fashion and is bright red. Tried to google its description for identification but failed. Thanks for your help!!!
This is an immature Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, the largest species of Assassin Bug in North America. The hatchlings are found in close proximity to the cluster of barrel shaped eggs that are laid in regular rows in a hexagon shaped cluster, but after they molt, they become solitary hunters. Adult Wheel Bugs have a crest on the back that looks like a wheel cog, hence the common name. Readers often claim that the Wheel Bug looks prehistoric, and it has been compared to a stegosaurus.
Letter 20 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Really, what IS this bug?
May 29, 2010
I live in central Oklahoma. Lately I have taken to wandering around my yard and taking photos of flowers or bugs or whatever catches my eye. I came back from the store and found this little guy crawling on my fence. The striking black and red caught my eye, as well as the bugs’ posture. It has long legs that are out of proportion to the length of it’s body, and it’s abdomen is not straight but stuck up. I did search your site as well as BugGuide.net and couldn’t find anything that resembled this. Can you tell me, what is this little critter? Thanks in advance!
Central Oklahoma, USA
This is an immature Wheel Bug.
Letter 21 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Assassin Bug Nymph ?
June 14, 2010
Assassin Bug Nymph ?
Or a space alien sent suck out the brains of Washington politicians. (If so, the bug is much larger than necessary.)
Cape Charles, Virginia (eastern shore)
Your awesome Assassin Bug nymph is a Wheel Bug, North America’s largest Assassin Bug. Your sarcasm is refreshing.
Letter 22 – Wheel Bug eats Cricket
Wheel Bug Photos
Location: Decatur, IL
October 16, 2010 7:53 pm
Hello! First, thanks for this site- it’s helped me name a lot of bugs I’ve come across.
Tonight I happily discovered a wheel bug outside my dorm, munching on a cricket. It’s the first one I’ve seen in years, so I didn’t hesitate to take photos. I thought you might be interested in them.
And no worries- I’ve already put this beautiful wheel bug right back where I found it, cricket and all.
Thank you for supplying us with a food chain image of a Wheel Bug feeding upon a Cricket. Though Wheel Bugs are formidable predators, our archive is noticeably lacking of images of them feeding.
Letter 23 – Wheel Bug Preys upon Preying Mantis
Wheel Bug eating a Praying Mantis
Location: SE Kansas
February 8, 2011 2:51 pm
Found this wheel bug feasting on this praying mantis! I thought it was an interesting picture and I didn’t find one in the gallery. Thought you might like to have it!! I hope the picture quality is good because is was taking with my phone!
Thank you so much for sending us this incredible Food Chain documentation between two predators. The muted tones of your image lends an almost painterly quality to the photograph. There is a bleakness to the landscape that is reminiscent of the staged clay animation dinosaur battles from movies long before the days of computer generated animation. We do have an example in our archives where the final outcome was different: A Preying Mantis feasting on a Wheel Bug from 2008.
Letter 24 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Never seen this before
Location: Saint Petersburg, Fl USA
April 9, 2011 3:43 pm
Hi bugman, found this crawling around outside on my chair under some trees, it’s about the size of a quarter legs included.. Thanks 🙂
This is an immature Wheel Bug, and the adults are quite spectacular crested insects. They are the largest Assassin Bugs in North America and they are well represented on our website. Handle them with caution as they might produce a painful bite.
Letter 25 – Wheel Bug Nymph at dermatologist's office
Georgia bug id needed
Location: Savannah, Georgia
May 12, 2011 6:07 pm
During a visit to my Dermatologist in Savannah today, he asked if I knew bugs. I asked why, to which he responded by having one of his nurses fetch a cup containing the bug in the attached photo. He explained that the patient before me had this insect in her hair, causing the doctor to almost have a seizure!
Hopefully my finger being in the pictures will help you get a sense of scale.
I’ve searched and haven’t been able to identify it, and would appreciate any leads you might have for me.
Thanks in advance…
– Marty Walsh –
Signature: – Marty Walsh
Hopefully I caught you before anyone wastes any time on my inquiry. While waiting for a reply, I started wandering around your site and found a photo of exactly my bug. 2009/06/02/immature-wheel-bug-3/
Seems my dermatologist had a patient with a Wheel Bug nymph in her hair. Lucky patient to not get bitten!
Thanks for a great resource!
– Marty Walsh –
We are thrilled that you were able to self identify your immature Wheel Bug since our mailbox is currently clogged with identification requests and we haven’t the time to attend to them all. We are also terribly amused with your experience at the dermatologist’s office.
Letter 26 – Wheel Bug Nymph bites toddler
PA- white bug/scorpion?
Location: Eastern Pennsylvania, Lehigh County
July 25, 2011 2:00 am
This bug apparently bit my friends toddler on her toe. Hospital had no idea what it is. She took the bug yo Erlich(sp) exterminator who told her it’s in the kissing bug family. I think they were just trying to lie to her and make a sale to exterminate on her dime. It looks nothing like a kissing bug. White color, appears to only have 4 legs, a stinger/tail, and red antennae with black line. See pic
This is an immature Wheel Bug, one of the Assassin Bugs in the family Reduviidae. Wheel Bugs will bite if carelessly handled, and the bite is reported to be painful, but it is not dangerous. The exterminator was actually correct that Kissing Bugs are in the family Reduviidae, but while Kissing Bugs spread pathogens and are frequently found indoors, Wheel Bugs are an outdoor species, so enlisting an exterminator would probably be throwing away money.
Letter 27 – Wheel Bug Nymph known as Monkey Bug in North Carolina
Subject: monkey bug?
Location: sampson county nc
June 4, 2012 1:43 pm
This bug doesn’t fly and it has no stinger that I could see anyway but it bit my mothervon her hand And left a big blood blister her hand was swollen. Down here the older people call it a monkeybug
We are very amused to learn that the common name Monkey Bug is used in your local area to describe the Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus. Your individual is an immature nymph, and when it matures into North Americas largest Assassin Bug, it will have a coglike structure on its thorax that leads to the common name Wheel Bug. The structure probably makes it difficult for birds or other predators to swallow it. We wonder what the origin of the name Monkey Bug is. As you noted, Wheel Bugs as well as other Assassin Bugs will bite if carelessly handled. Another insect common in the South is the Hag Moth Caterpillar or Monkey Slug. We wonder if there was perhaps some confluence of names since the Monkey Slug is capable of producing a nasty sting if it is carelessly handled. We are postdating your letter to go live in about a week as we will be away from the office and we would like to continue our routine of daily postings.
Letter 28 – Wheel Bug eats Leaf Beetle
Subject: A link in the food chain
July 5, 2012 5:46 am
I have these assassin bugs all over the yard. Since I’m a gardener, I’m thrilled with this. I was out there the other day and came across what I think is a juvenile wheel bug eating some sort of beetle.
I’m hoping that you can identify the beetle, but the main reason for sending this is that I think it’s a cool picture showing part of the food chain.
Letter 29 – Wheel Bug: AKA “dinosaur bug”
Subject: dinosaur bug
June 20, 2014 8:18 am
I call this the dinosaur bug. Do you know it by another name? I was early fall in southeastern PA
We suspected correctly that this was going to be a Wheel Bug without even looking at the image because of your subject line.
Letter 30 – Wheel Bug eats Japanese Beetle
Subject: assassin bug eating japanese beetle
Location: Hermann, Missouri
July 19, 2014 4:09 pm
stopped to close a gate and saw this. took about 30 pics in order to get one that was decent. sending in high rez. makes me really really happy that there are natural predators to the dang japanese beetles. not nearly enough of them, but still….
Signature: c. millard
Dear c. millard,
Thank you so much for sending in your excellent image of a Wheel Bug feeding on a Japanese Beetle, and we are certain it will warm the collective hearts of gardeners in the eastern portions of North America where the invasive, exotic Japanese Beetle feeds on hundreds of different ornamental garden plants and food crops. According to our sources, Japanese Beetles were not a big problem in Ohio in 2014.
Letter 31 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Found near small backyard pond
August 23, 2015 8:17 am
We found this creature crawling out of the rocks surrounding our small backyard pond. It moved in a very strange way. We live in PA. Thank you!!
Owen (age 4) and Warren (age 3), nature enthusiasts
Signature: Owen and Warren
Dear Owen and Warren,
We are happy to learn that you are developing a love of nature at an early age. This is a predatory Wheel Bug, the largest North American Assassin Bug. Though backyard ponds serve as habitat for a wide variety of creatures, Wheel Bugs have no particular connection to a watery environment. Wheel Bugs are often found on trees and plants where they search for prey.
Letter 32 – Wheel Bug relocated away from children
Subject: Wheel bug, shortly before relocation
Location: Dayton, OH
August 25, 2015 8:11 pm
I moved this guy to an area not frequented by kids, right after a short “look but don’t touch” speech. 🙂 We seem to see a lot of these in late August, usually after a storm.
The presence of significant numbers of Wheel Bugs in your area is indicative of a plentiful food supply. Wheel Bugs are stealth hunters that move slowly along plants searching for prey, and because of their hunting style, they tend to encounter foliage and blossom eating insects, including the invasive, exotic Japanese Beetle. Because of your thoughtfulness in relocating this magnificent predator, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Thank you so much! I think that it’s better for everyone involved that I relocated it 🙂 I’ve heard horrifying things about the bites of wheel/assassin bugs.
Letter 33 – Wheel Bug
Subject: What is this!
Location: Northern Kentucky
August 27, 2015 1:32 pm
What kind of bug is this? It looks like a stink bug dinosaur mix. Northern Kentucky, today, August 27 th, sunny, non wooded area, thanks.
Wheel Bugs like the one in your image are among our most common summer identification requests. You are not the first person to comment that Wheel Bugs look prehistoric, like dinosaurs, or more specifically, look like a stegosaurus.
Letter 34 – Wheel Bugs
Subject: Awesome looking bug!!!
Location: Near Lancaster PA
September 27, 2015 3:15 pm
Hi – I found these awesome beautiful bugs in my flowers – they look like praying mantis but are brown and have a beautiful metallic diamond on their back – sending a pic — ty
The Wheel Bug is a common predatory, beneficial Assassin Bug found in eastern North America. It is the largest Assassin Bug in North America.
Letter 35 – Wheel Bug
Subject: What’s this bug?
Location: Virginia Beach Virginia
October 27, 2015 8:01 am
Tia is sitting on a sculpture on my back deck. We live in an agricultural area. Our lot is 3 wooded acres. 10 /27
This is a Wheel Bug, a species of Assassin Bug. Wheel Bugs are among our most common identification requests, and most images of adults like your individual arrive from mid summer to late fall, when they mature. We are post-dating your submission to go live later in the week while we are away from the office.
Letter 36 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Slow peanut-shaped insect
Location: Georgia, USA
November 4, 2015 11:52 am
I am curious to know what kind of bug this is. I have researched online and cannot find anything similar looking. It is early fall in Athens Georgia, we are in a wooded residential area. It is about the size of a half dollar including leg span, maybe a little smaller. But definitely larger than a quarter. There is a ridge on its upper back between its top two legs.
Thanks for your time!
Signature: -Intrigued in GA
Dear Intrigued in GA,
This Wheel Bug is the largest North American Assassin Bug, a family of predators. The slow movement is characteristic of the hunting style of the Wheel Bug, but they are beneficial predators. Many species of Assassin Bugs will readily bite humans if carelessly handled, but we cannot recall a single report in more than 15 years of a Wheel Bug biting a human, even though Wheel Bug identifications are among the Top 10 identification requests to our site. We believe the cog-like ridge you cited prevents Wheel Bugs from being easily swallowed by other, larger predators like birds.
Letter 37 – Wheel Bug
Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
November 8, 2015 7:23 pm
Hi, a 2.5 year old boy would love to know what kind of bug this is. Please help, I give up!
This magnificent, beneficial predator is a Wheel Bug.
Letter 38 – Wheel Bug
Location: mckinney, texas
November 16, 2015 3:34 pm
What kind of bug is this? Is it harmful?
This is a beneficial, predatory Wheel Bug. Though it has a mouth designed to pierce and suck fluids from its prey, and despite having gotten hundreds of identification requests for Wheel Bugs, we cannot ever recall an account of a person being bitten, but we would not rule out that careless handling might result in a painful bite.
Letter 39 – Wheel Bug
Subject: What is this thing?
Location: Roanoke, VA
November 17, 2015 3:29 pm
I was moving stuff around on my porch today and saw this thing. I almost put my hand right on it. After I went inside and changed my underwear, I took a picture of it. It was about an inch long.
Signature: Kevin Ratliff
Now that autumn is upon us, we seem to be getting daily identification requests for Wheel Bugs from eastern North America, but we are only posing those with the best images or the most entertaining written accounts. Your submission has both. Wheel Bugs are slow moving predators that are beneficial in the garden. They are Assassin Bugs, and though they are capable of biting, we cannot recall ever having received a report of a person being bitten, unlike some other Assassin Bugs that bite quite readily.
Letter 40 – Wheel Bug Makes Our Day
Location: West Tennessee
November 17, 2015 2:48 pm
Ahh at last. I moved to Western Tennessee over a year and a half ago. One thing I hoped to see was a wheel bug. This spring my boyfriend picked flowers from outside and put them on the plate with some eggs and served me breakfast in bed. He was surprised that I was more interested in the assassin bug nymph (I think it was a wheel bug) that was crawling on the flowers.
Today I found one. Our weather has been in the 70’s until this week and many of the bugs are still around. I found this guy or girl? walking on the side of our shop this morning. It was cool today so it was moving in slow motion. It’s sad that it won’t live much longer, but at least I got a nice picture. I also resisted the urge to pick it up as much as I wanted to since I hear than can have a nasty bite.
We never tire of posting great images of Wheel Bugs and your image is quite nice. Your written account is quite charming as well. It is so nice to read a thoughtfully composed submission. We get so tired of posting terse, grammatically horrifying, demanding queries texted out on a cellular telephone, so your posting really made our day. We need a Make My Day tag, though we can’t imagine our day being made every day.
Letter 41 – Public Service Message: Wheel Bug is NOT Kissing Bug
Subject: Kissing bug?
Location: Lancaster pa
November 25, 2015 9:16 pm
I found this in my living room. I think it may have been hiding in some wood that we brought in for our fireplace. Now I am freaking out here! 🙂
This is a beneficial, predatory Wheel Bug, not a Kissing Bug. We have received at least six urgent request to identify suspected Kissing Bugs in the past two days which leads us to believe there is some news story currently circulating. Are you able to provide us any information on why you suspected a Kissing Bug?
Thank you so much for your prompt reply! I have grandchildren and I am very concerned because they play in our living room frequently!
Yes, there is news articles on line how they are spotted in Pennsylvania! I also saw the pictures of the wheel bug, but I did not see the helmet type of spine sticking up on this one’s head.
I will try and forward the segment that I saw on Facebook to you. It was on Fox news. Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer this! It is very much appreciated!
The initial picture shown in this article did not look like the bug in my house, but another pic did! I literally had just found the bug the day before and killed it!I have spent a lot of hours looking at pictures as well and it’s very confusing! I guess that’s why I should leave it up to the experts LOL! Thank you again! Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi Again Pam,
The Kissing Bug in the FOX image you forwarded is an immature Kissing Bug, which may explain part of the confusion. Sometimes immature True Bugs change in shape and color as they mature and grow wings.
Letter 42 – Wheel Bug from Panama
Location: Panama, Central America
Daniel/Bill: December 17th, 2015 9am, Boquete, Chiriqui Highlands, Panama (4,250’)
Here’s another, not so unusual but the area is thick with good sightings right now!
Hi again Clare,
This is a Wheel Bug in the genus Arilus. Our only North American species, Arilus cristatus, which ranges into Central America, does not have red legs, so we researched if this might a different species. We then located an image on FlickR of a red legged species from Chiriqui, Panama, Arilus carinatus, so that is a good candidate for your individual. Naturalista lists it as also occurring in Brazil. Please use our standard submission form for any future submissions.
P.S. Bill only assists us with moth identifications.
Thanks Daniel! Will do the form if I come across any more amazing creatures. Thanks for the site links. Felice Navidad!
Letter 43 – Wheel Bug Nymph Carnage
Subject: What is this
June 9, 2016 1:19 pm
I have killed 3 of these so far
This is a Wheel Bug nymph, a beneficial predator. When they hatch in the spring, Wheel Bug nymphs often arouse attention as they look somewhat like spiders as they cluster around their distinctive grouping of eggs. They soon set out as solitary hunters, taking small prey like Aphids, a scourge to any home gardener. It actually appears that the individual in your image is feeding off a small insect, possibly an Aphid. Mature Wheel Bugs have a distinctive “cog” along the upper surface of the thorax that makes them very distinctive looking. Mature Wheel Bugs are able to take much larger prey, and they help eliminate many unwanted insects in the garden. Wheel Bugs are also quite large and they are probably the largest members of the Assassin Bug family in North America. All Assassin Bugs might bite if carelessly handled, but we almost never receive reports from folks who have been bitten by a Wheel Bug. If it occurs, a bite may cause temporary local sensitivity and swelling, but it will have no lasting effect. We hope we have convinced you to refrain from future Unnecessary Carnage of Wheel Bugs.
Letter 44 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Dinosaur looking bug
Location: Kettering OH
July 31, 2016 3:46 pm
Saw this bug in a grassy field in Dayton Oh where we had a birthday party at the playground for my daughter today (july31). Although it hung close to the picnic tables and bath house.
It had an interesting shaped head – dinosaur-ish and had a metallic bronze colored patch on its lower body. It had a weird vertical pincher kind of mouth and was watch me intently it seemed.
Never seen anything like it!
Signature: Curious Mom in Dayton
Dear Curious Mom in Dayton,
Nine times out of ten when we get an identification request from North America that includes the words “dinosaur” or “prehistoric” in the subject line, the critter involved is a Wheel Bug. Like other Assassin Bugs, Wheel Bugs are predators, and though they are not aggressive toward humans, they should be handled with extreme caution as they are quite capable of inflicting a painful, but not dangerous bite.
Letter 45 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Baltimore bug
Location: Baltimore, MD
September 13, 2016 3:22 pm
Hi-some kids at school found this. Hope you can help! Many thanks!
Signature: Arts & Ideas Sudbury School
Though we consider the Wheel Bug to be one of our Top 10 identification requests, we have not posted a new image in quite some time. Your image is quite nice. Tell the school kids to respect the Wheel Bug. It might bite if carelessly handled.
Letter 46 – Wheel Bug
October 26, 2016 10:29 am
A friend in Florida has been getting bitten by something. Today this was found on her leg. Do you know what it is.
The dorsal view of this Wheel Bug is not the optimal vantage point to highlight its most obvious feature, the cog-like “wheel” on the thorax. Wheel Bugs are Assassin Bugs that might bite if carelessly handled, but if your friend has received multiple bites, we would suggest searching elsewhere for the culprit.
Letter 47 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Wheel Bug
Location: South central Virginia
October 29, 2016 7:38 am
I got a great close-up of a Wheel Bug and wanted to share it. I’m in south central Virginia.
Signature: Nina Eagle
Thanks for sending in your wonderful image of a Wheel Bug.
Letter 48 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Is it a love bug?
Location: Maryland Ellicott city
November 3, 2016 10:37 pm
Hi!I was home yesterday when I saw that Big bug hanging on the window’s shading screen on the deck.
I was afraid cause I had the baby with me and I only got closer just to take a pic of it!I had no idea if it was a flying one!
Though this is neither, we suspect you are confusing Lovebugs, harmless March Flies that get their common name because people frequently encounter mating pairs, with Kissing Bugs, a group of blood-sucking Assassin Bugs known to spread Chagas Disease through their bites. Your Wheel Bug is an Assassin Bug in the same family as the Kissing Bugs, and though a Wheel Bug might bite if carelessly handled, they are not aggressive and not considered dangerous. They are beneficial predators that should be respected.
Letter 49 – Wheel Bug
Subject: What’s this bug?
Location: Lawton OK.
November 16, 2016 10:33 pm
I was at a range when this bug flew in. Loudest bug I’ve ever seen. Moves slow once landed. Never seen anything like this bug. Not usually afraid of anything, until I met this thing. The wind would blow wrong and I was jumpy.
Signature: – Augustin, Gianni
Dear Augustin, Gianni,
This is a Wheel Bug, the largest North American Assassin Bug. Though Wheel Bugs are not aggressive towards humans, they are predators with mouthparts designed to pierce prey and suck fluids, and they could deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled.
Wow thanks. I didn’t think you’d get back to me so soon. I really appreciate that.
Letter 50 – Wheel Bug
Subject: Fall Visitor
Location: Northeast Georgia (near Helen)
November 20, 2016 11:12 am
Check out this handsome fella? Came flying in from the trees as the leaves were falling this week in North Georgia, to sit we me and the wife. Didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, even the cat checked him out. Kept walking around and let me take his picture. That’s a piece of pink street chalk he is sitting on.
No idea really of actually what this is, a type of Mantis perhaps with how it used its front legs, also with a really small head? The vertical spiked plate on the back and the flat metallic looking area, just amazing!
You guys are the best. 🙂 Thanks…
This is a positively gorgeous image of a Wheel Bug, the largest North American Assassin Bug. While not aggressive toward humans, they are capable of delivering a painful bite with the red, piercing mouthpart that is quite evident in your image.
Letter 51 – Wheel Bug Nymph eats Japanese Beetle
Subject: FANTASTIC Wheel bug EATING Japanese Beetle
Location: Lignum virginia
June 26, 2017 6:52 pm
Captured this guy on my peach tree today snacking on a Japanese Beetle! Wanted to see if you could add it to your album! Thanks and love your site!!!
JUNE 26th summer in Virginia on a 25yr old peach tree.
Signature: Thank you
We are thrilled to add your image of a Wheel Bug nymph eating an invasive, exotic Japanese Beetle to our Food Chain tag. We have other images in our archive of Wheel Bugs feeding upon Japanese Beetles.
Letter 52 – Immature Wheel Bug eats Harvestman
Subject: Light Gray beetle?
Location: Denver, Pennsylvania
July 27, 2017 5:22 am
Last weekend my family and I were camping in Denver PA and my daughter came across this beetle type insect. He was eating a daddy long leg. Any idea what he is?
Signature: Curious in PA
Dear Curious in PA,
This predator is not a beetle. It is an immature Assassin Bug known as a Wheel Bug. The prey is a member of the order Opiliones, commonly called a Harvestman or as you have indicated, a Daddy-Long-Legs.
Letter 53 – Wheel Bug Nymph
Subject: Blue legs?
Geographic location of the bug: Chattanooga TN Riverwalk Park
Time: 09:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Looks super cool and walks kinda like a praying mantis caught the pic while it was eating lunch. Making sure it’s not dangerous as it is by a playground
How you want your letter signed: Rosh
This is a Wheel Bug nymph, and like many Assassin Bugs, it might bite if carelessly handled, but unlike some Assassin Bugs, namely the Kissing Bugs, the bite of a Wheel Bug, though painful, is not considered dangerous.