Hope all is well. I’ve just come in from a bit of flower cutting and I’m waiting patiently for the thunderstorm that’s brewing on the weather radar. I grew up in the city, in a tiny yard and with neighbors practically living on top of me. When the space that you roam is a 30’x 30′ backyard, it turns our that you don’t have much of an opportunity to run into much wildlife – especially seemingly exotic, yet common, bugs.
While out in the sunflower patch yesterday, I was in for quite the surprise. After years of vegetable gardening, I often feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what to expect. Stink bugs, japanese beetles, cucumber beetles – nothing too terrible. I know that when September rolls around, I’ve got to be ready to brave being near those giant yellow and black garden spiders that live here. Alas, there’s a new bug in my neighborhood and personally, it strikes fear into my heart – the wheel bug.
As soon as I saw this thing, I had to take its picture so that I could later try to identify it. There’s something about finding a new creepy crawly that always intrigues me. How rare is this thing? Why have I never seen this before? Oh my goodness, why are there so many of them!? That’s right, after spotting my fifth wheel bug among the sunflowers, I was satisfied with calling it a downright “infestation”. Turns out, wheel bugs are actually a good thing. After Googling “big dinosaur looking bug on sunflowers” (I’m that scientific, y’all), I learned quite a bit.
The most noticeable, and to me troubling, aspect of these creatures is that they’re quite large. While this feature is initially what caused my alarm, after learning that these can have a very painful sting, I was relieved that they are pretty visible to the eye to those out in the field.
Wheel bugs are assassin bugs, which simply means that they are beneficial insects which are predatory. This means they can be a great asset when your garden is overrun with many less desirable buggies that choose to munch and brunch on things you don’t want to be eaten. My sunflowers struggled very early on due to an overabundance of grasshoppers. In hindsight, the appearance of these predators definitely helped ease the insect pressure that was present. If you’d like to know more about how assassin bugs hunt and all that good business, the Texas A&M Extension has some great info.
At the end of the day, I have mixed emotions about having these bugs in my garden. I appreciate that they’re helping to keep my plants healthy and balanced. While I’m wary about being bitten, I won’t be taking any measures to kill or remove them. I will, on the other hand, being doing a lot of research regarding how to ease the pain of a bite if it should happen!
Do you have any experience with wheel bugs? Please feel free to share in the comments! Much love!