Arillus cristatus, more commonly known as the Wheel Bug, is a very interesting insect of the family Reduviidae and order Hemiptera! It is a semi common insect that can be found in a very wide range of geographical terrestrial locations. An adult Wheel Bug is very easy to identify because of the very prominent semi-circular structure found on the dorsal side of its body. However, the nymphs do not have the “wheel” on their back until they are full grown adults. This means that they develop in a hemimetabolous manner, in which young Wheel Bugs will look like smaller versions of the adults and will be called Nymphs.
As far as insects go, its life cycle is a relatively standard hemimetabolous one. However, the nymphs are easily distinguishable from the adults (Nymph Walk). They are a univoltine insect, meaning they have one life cycle per year (“Wheel Bug- Hemiptera”). During the winter, a cluster of eggs is layed by the female, usually in groups from 40-200 (“Assassin of the Insect World”). They are laid onto a twig or branch of a tree. During the spring of the same year, the eggs will hatch and each fertile egg will become a nymph wheel bug (Nymph hatching out of his egg). The nymphs vaguely resemble an adult wheel bug, except that they do not have the distinct “wheel” on the back that the wheel bug is known for. Also, they are a bright red and black color instead of the greyish-brown color that they will be when they are an adult (“Wheel Bug, Arilus Cristatus (Linnaeus)” ).
The wheel bug does not discriminate when it comes to choosing a meal to eat. They prey on a wide variety of insects. They feed on Lepidopterans, Coleopterans, Hemipterans, Hymenopterans and Homoptera. The way that they feed is a very fascinating process that includes both chemical and physical modes of acquiring their food. First off, their saliva contains a toxic and paralytic substance that will make it easy for the Wheel Bug to obtain its prey, as it will be unable to move (Wheel Bug vs. Caterpillar). The process of paralyzing the target and killing the prey usually only takes about 30 seconds (Wheel Bugs Deliver World of Hurt / Their Bite Causes Excruciating Pain” ). It is said that the Wheel Bug has one of the more painful bites that can be encountered in the insect world (Wheel Bug vs. Cricket). It is described as being worse than the bites of bees, wasps, hornets, etc. The bite goes through stages for many days following. First, the site has sharp pain, followed by a numbness for several days after. Much like a sunburn, the next stage is the skin becomes red and hot to the touch. Healing time varies from person to person, but generally, the bite should return to normal within two weeks of receiving the bite (“Beneficials in the Garden”).
The Wheel Bug is about as widely distributed as any bug you will see. It has been found in areas from Rhode Island all the way west to California, all the way south in Texas and Florida. They are only found in the Americas however. They have been seen in both Mexico and Guatemala as well.
Wheel bugs are one of the more terrifying bugs that you will find out there. They are a very effective predator in the Americas and are very important to the ecosystem. With its long legs, robot-like walk, big wheel on its back, or terrifying face, it is a something you would expect to see only in your nightmares, not in your house. But next time you go outside, look around for a bit and odds are you might find one for yourself!
“Wheel Bug, Arilus Cristatus (Linnaeus).” Wheel Bug, Arilus Cristatus (Linnaeus). University of Florida, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.
Day, Eric. “Wheel Bug- Hemiptera.” Virginia Cooperative Extension. Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, 13 May 2013. Web. 3 Dec. 2015
Hilton, Bill, Jr. “Assassin of the Insect World.” This Week at Hilton Pond. N.p., n.d. Web.
Hawkinson, Candice. “Beneficials in the Garden.” Texas Master Gardener. N.p., n.d. Web.
Fagerlund, Richard. “Wheel Bugs Deliver World of Hurt / Their Bite Causes Excruciating Pain.” SF Gate. N.p., 26 Jan. 2002. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.