Do They Bite?

Wheel Bug

Wheel Bug

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.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Do They Bite?

  1. Pingback: Do They Bite? – Entomo Planet

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