HomeMore Than GardeningWhat is a Wheel Bug? Are Wheel Bugs Dangerous?

What is a Wheel Bug? Are Wheel Bugs Dangerous?

Find What is a Wheel Bug? Are Wheel Bugs Dangerous? Find out why these predatory insects should be left alone!

What is a Wheel Bug 1

Popular for their unique cog-like crest and predatory behavior, these insects are also quite menacing looking. So, What is a Wheel Bug? Time to find out!

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What is a Wheel Bug?

The wheel bug, scientifically known as Arilus cristatus, is commonly found in the United States, including Pennsylvania, during summer. It is easily recognizable by its crested “wheel” and elongated head with a beak angled towards the body. Though their bite can be very painful, their toxins do not pose any serious health risks.

Wheel bugs are crucial predators that feed on other insects, playing a vital role in controlling defoliation and preventing the destruction of trees. They belong to the family Reduviidae, which is a predatory family in the order Hemiptera (the True Bugs).

Measuring about 1 ¼ inches (3 cm) in length, the wheel bug is the largest species of assassin bug found in North America. Known for its distinctive, cog-shaped crest protruding from the top of its thorax, the wheel bug is gray in color and preys on larger insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars.

Wheel bugs are most active during the summer months, and they are often found in wooded areas or near trees. They are known for their ability to take down larger insects, which they do by injecting them with a toxin through their beak. Despite their aggressive behavior towards other insects, wheel bugs are generally not aggressive towards humans and will only bite if they feel threatened.

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Are Wheel Bugs Dangerous to Humans?


A bite from a Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) can be quite painful and cause discomfort. When a Wheel Bug bites, it uses its long, piercing mouthpart called a rostrum to inject enzymes into its prey or, in the case of a defensive bite, into a perceived threat. The bite can be painful and may feel similar to a sharp, stabbing sensation.

Some people have described the pain as intense and long-lasting, with symptoms such as localized swelling, redness, and inflammation.

It’s important to note that the severity of the reaction to a Wheel Bug bite can vary among individuals. Some people may experience more significant symptoms, including an allergic reaction, while others may have a milder reaction. If you are bitten by a Wheel Bug and experience any concerning symptoms or have an allergic reaction, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

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Significance as Predators

What is a Wheel Bug 2

They are known to prey on insects such as caterpillars, beetles, aphids, and other small insects that can be detrimental to plants.

By feeding on these pests, Wheel Bugs help to naturally control their populations and reduce the need for chemical insecticides. This can contribute to a more balanced and sustainable ecosystem in the garden.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to Wheel Bugs

1. What is a Wheel Bug?

A Wheel Bug is a species of large predatory insect found in North America. They belong to the family Reduviidae, commonly known as assassin bugs.

2. Why are they called Wheel Bugs?

They are called Wheel Bugs due to the prominent wheel-like structure present on their backs. This structure is formed by elongated projections that resemble the spokes of a wheel.

3. Are Wheel Bugs dangerous to humans?

Wheel Bugs can deliver a painful bite if they feel threatened or handled. Their bites can cause local pain, redness, swelling, and in some cases, allergic reactions. However, they are not generally aggressive towards humans and will typically only bite if provoked.

4. What do Wheel Bugs eat?

Wheel Bugs are predatory insects and feed on a variety of other insects. They primarily prey on insects such as caterpillars, beetles, aphids, and other small insects found in their habitat.

5. Where are Wheel Bugs commonly found?

Wheel Bugs are native to North America and can be found in various regions across the continent. They are often encountered in wooded areas, gardens, and agricultural landscapes.

6. Can Wheel Bugs fly?

Yes, Wheel Bugs have functional wings and are capable of flying. However, they generally prefer to walk or crawl and use flight as a means of transportation when necessary.

7. Are Wheel Bugs beneficial or harmful in the garden?

Wheel Bugs can be considered beneficial in the garden as they are natural predators of various garden pests. They help control populations of harmful insects, contributing to natural pest management.

8. How long do Wheel Bugs live?

The lifespan of Wheel Bugs typically ranges from a few months to a year, depending on factors such as environmental conditions and availability of food.

9. Can Wheel Bugs transmit diseases?

While Wheel Bugs are known to carry pathogens, they are not considered significant vectors of diseases that affect humans.

10. How can I protect myself from Wheel Bug bites?

To protect yourself from Wheel Bug bites, it is best to avoid handling them. If a bite occurs, clean the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold compress to help alleviate the pain and swelling. If there are any concerning symptoms or signs of an allergic reaction, it is advisable to seek medical attention.


  1. I did get bit by one three weeks ago through thick woollen socks. It looked like a stink bug but I didn’t know until I discovered your page. I had severe swelling in the ankle and last week the swelling came back again. I am on steroids to fight the swelling as it is hard to put weight on the foot. But good to learn about them. Just need to wear boots and long pants in the yard


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