Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

Wheel Bug and Dinner Guests

The wheel bug is an impressively large 1-1/2 inch true bug. Note how the wings form a V shape on the back, characteristic if Hempitera, the true bug order of insects. I found several hanging out on blackberry bushes today. These bugs are predators; their sharp proboscis penetrates the exoskeleton of their victim. They squirt digestive enzymes into the prey, then suck out the nutritious protein drink. Lest you cringe, remember raw eggs were a popular fitness “drink” craze. The blackberries held plenty of potential dinner guests, which I have also photographed. In two of the photographs prey can be seen in the clutches of the wheel bug. While done so only in defense, the wheel bug can use that same proboscis to give a careless human handler a painful bite. The wheel name comes from the rather menacing curved ridge of tooth-like structures on the thorax. I don’t see any particular use for those teeth other than a potential deterrent to predators of the wheel bug.

The photographs were taken with a Nikon D90, a Micro-Nikkor 60mm AF lens, and a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight with an alcohol bottle diffuser. Thanks to the speedlight, I was able to keep the aperture at f/22 for maximum depth of field. This gives rather clinical images, but they are very clear.