Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wheel Bug

This is a recently molted wheel bug. In fact, its cast off exoskeleton can be seen in the bottom portion of the top picture. It is that dark colored bug shape. This bug will darken as it matures, but it is beautiful at this point. I thought that the red bug had eaten the dark one as the dark skeleton had a hole in the main body. The folks at bugguide.net set me on the right path.
Wheel bugs are among the largest true bugs in North America (up to 1.5 inches) and the only member of it's species. Eggs are laid in the fall and hatch the next spring. They undergo 5 molts before reaching maturity. They prey on  insects that are generally considered pests, like caterpillars and Japanese beetles. It inject its beak into the prey and injects digestive juices into the body of the prey. Then it sucks the insides out. Their bite is reported to be quite painful, taking a long time to heal, so it is best not to try to pick them up. I was really lucky to see this guy in his newly molted state. They are typically quite secretive.

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