Wheel bugs, Arilus cristatus, are active late into the fall and are occasionally found in human habitats. More frequently, they are found on flowers where they prey on pollinators. Wheel bugs have large sucking mouthparts that they use to inject digestive enzymes into their prey. The saliva contains a suite of enzymes, including lipases that lyse cells and release the nutrient content. The wheel bug consumes this fluid.
Wheel bugs are larger than the median sized insects and they often attract questions from the curious. Fortunately, the smart phone camera has replaced the vague verbal descriptions I used to get, “I saw this black bug. Do you know what it was?” The distinctive thorax of the wheel bug appears in most photos. A commonly asked follow up question is, “Does it bite?” In the case of the wheel bug, the answer is yes, it will bite especially if roughly handled. The bite is reported to be painful similar to a bees sting with pain persisting for hours. The bite area typically shows some redness but does not much persist longer than a day. The pain is likely caused by digestive enzymes interacting with sensitive nerves.