Bug of the Day: Wheel Bug

Above: With their unique crest, wheel bugs are hard to miss. UF/IFAS photo by Lyle Buss.

Whether you’re a human or an insect, you probably don’t want to mess with the wheel bug.

Known for its wheel-shaped crest, this bug’s bite (actually a poke like being stuck by a needle) is said to be worse than a bee or wasp sting. However, if left alone, wheel bugs can benefit humans by eating pests such as aphids and hairy caterpillars. It preys on these bugs by piercing them with its proboscis, a straw-like body part that lets them inject prey with a toxic, paralyzing saliva.

More wheel bug facts:

  • The wheel bug is found throughout Florida.
  • The wheel bug is most active during the day, though it is sometimes found around lights at night because these lights attract their prey.
  • Adults grow to be one to one and a quarter inches long. This funny-looking critter has six long legs, two red antenna, a small head, and large eyes.
  • The shape of its crest resembles a cog wheel or chicken’s comb. This is the only bug in the U.S. that has this feature. Young wheel bugs (nymphs) don’t have a crest.
  • Wheel bugs lay their eggs in a hexagonal shape. The eggs look like clusters of brown bottles with white caps.
  • Wheel bugs do not play well with others—they are known to eat each other!
  • When captured, wheel bugs can activate scent sacs, orange-red sacs that give off an unpleasant smell.
  • Wheel bugs love the smell of turpentine oil.

To learn more about the wheel bug, go to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in243.