|Junior wheel bug, Arilus cristatus|
image of two adult wheel bugs on flickr
Adult wheel bugs are totally distinctive. They are the only North American insect with a characteristic raised crest behind their heads. They are also quite shy. If noticed, they generally attempt to scurry out of sight, ducking beneath leaves and twigs. Wheel bugs are excellent garden insects. They are fierce ambush predators, and they especially savor caterpillars, beetles, and aphids.
Man and beast alike would be well advised to leave wheel bugs to their business. Over at SFgate, Richard Fagerlund compared being bitten by a wheel bug to being shot. Richard has, in fact, been shot. I figure he know's what he's talking about. The pain lingers for a few days, and some victims report numbness in the area that eventually subsides.
Despite their immense capacity to deal out pain, I'm glad to have wheel bugs around, and doubly glad they're surviving in my urban prairie. This unique insect is the tiger of its miniature forest.