The other day I was out on my driveway building a gate. I’d seen this huge Wheel Bug hanging around and was pleased to have the visitor since I now know he’s a beneficial bug. I thought about taking some pictures but I was pretty focused on the project. I saw him periodically throughout the day. And then, just as I was cleaning up and the dusk was beginning to fall I saw this….
Of course I had to move in closer…
The Wheel Bug had caught the Red Wasp and was having his supper! Can you see the “straw” inserted into the abdomen of the Red Wasp?
When it encounters a prey item–usually some adult insect or caterpillar–it typically lunges forward in its own slow way, grabs onto the prey with its front legs, and buries its hypodermic beak into some soft body part of the hapless prey.
The Wheel Bug has some of the best-developed mouthparts of any True Bug. Its formidable beak arises at the anterior end of its long tubular head and unfolds forward.
After he was done with the abdomen, he moved his beak to the thorax…
Look at the eye of the wasp – isn’t it beautiful?
The Wheel Bug injects enzyme-laden saliva–which immobilizes the prey within 30 seconds and turns its parts into porridge–after which the predatory bug sucks out all the victim’s bodily fluids.
This activity, of course, kills the prey item, which is why the Wheel Bug is classified in the Reduviidae–the Assassin Bug Family. It’s worth noting that Wheel Bugs aren’t all that particular about where they stick their beaks–which is fair warning that humans should use appropriate care when handling one.
Some folk have allergic reactions to the bite, while others simply say a Wheel Bug nibble hurts ten times more than a hornet sting and takes weeks or months to heal.
Do you see how the Wheel Bug holds the Red Wasp with his leg?
I watched the Wheel Bug until it was too dark to see- he’s not a very fast eater 🙂 I was thankful the Wheel Bug had been there that day – I like to think he was protecting me from that Red Wasp.
It’s amazing the amount of activity that’s happening all around us in the insect world while we carry on with our day. I love taking the time to sneak a peek every now and then into their world.
A thank you to the site of http://www.hiltonpond.org/thisweek030901.html for added information on the Wheel Bug.