Walking near the Cache River in southern Illinois, I came across this awesome insect. The Wheel Bug is one of the largest terrestrial true bugs in North America, being up to 1-1/2 inches in length. It features a wheel-shaped structure on its back; this is the only insect species in the United States with such a crest.
A type of Assassin Bug, Wheel Bugs are predators upon soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, which they pierce with their beak to inject salivary fluids that dissolve soft tissue. Because most of their prey are pests, wheel bugs are considered as beneficial to man. They are also known for eating Stink Bugs.
These insects are common in eastern North America, although most residents where they live have never seen them. Wheel Bugs are well-camouflaged and very shy, hiding in leafy habitat whenever possible. They have wings which allow for clumsy, noisy flight.
Once you see a Wheel Bug, you are not likely to forget it. Not only is it the largest member of Assassin Bugs, their bizarre appearance makes quite an impression. It was very cool to come across this terror of the insect world, which I’ve only seen once before.