Congratulations to K. Auman for correctly guessing (and then having her name randomly chosen from all the other correct entries) that our mystery creature is in fact…a Wheel Bug!
After years of photographing insects, I have to admit that I never came across one of these creepy looking guys until a few weeks ago. This creature is classified in the Hemiptera order and is one of the largest “true” bugs. Ladybugs, june bugs, and lightning bugs are all actually beetles for example.
Hemipterans have several things in common including sucking mouth parts that can pierce tissue and drink in the liquid, and they are half-winged. The wheel bug has two pairs of wings in which the front half of the anterior pair is leathery and the back half is shiny and membranous like a bee. The hind wings are completely membranous. He can fly, but is is primarily terrestrial. You will hear him coming; this large bug clumsily flies through the air sounding like a little motor.
But the wings are not what you need to know about this bug. It is those mouthparts you want to keep an eye on! That long beak-like mouth piece has given this guy quite the reputation. In fact, he is in the Assassin Bug family! That mouth piece is used to spear other insects. He is a terrifying predator to smaller bugs because once stabbed they are filled with a toxin that paralyzes them and then their “juices” are sucked up through the proboscis like a straw.
A bite from a wheel bug is said to be 10x more painful than a bee sting. They won’t attack, but I wouldn’t recommend handling one.
The use for the cog shaped wheel (hence its name)located on his back is pretty much unknown- which is ironic. But it makes him look more intimidating and somewhat robotic.
So tell me…Was this bug new to you? Maybe you’ve seen one but didn’t know what it was. I’d love to have you comment and tell me how well you recognized this creature. Even if you answered correctly…I’d like to know if you knew or if you researched it!
K. Auman chose this image from my Closer Look Collection as the 8×10 she will receive for being the winner! Congratulations!