Arilus cristatus Photo Bill Chitty ©
Found throughout Florida, the rather grotesque looking wheel bug is a member of the Reduviid or assassin bug family. About an inch long, it has long legs, very long antennae, a slim head with large eyes and a stout beak, and a sort of crest on its back that looks like a cog wheel or wagon wheel.
The wheel bug moves very slowly with jerky mechanical movements. It also flies slowly and somewhat clumsily, in an upright position, making a loud buzzing sound.
Wheel bugs are useful predators because they feed on plant pests like leaf miners and other defoliating caterpillars, but they can deliver a painful bite to humans. Much more painful than the bite of a bee or a wasp, the affected skin area often becomes red and hot to the touch, and may remain numb for several days. Bites can sometimes take weeks to heal.
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