Baby assassins (wheel bugs)

May 17, 2005
Pleasantville Ohio
For the past 5-6 years, we’ve had hatches of wheel bugs (Arilus cristatus) on our star magnolia (M. stellata). The nymphs feed on aphids and other small insects on the tree until they grow their wings and are able to forage over a wider area. At birth, they are ~1/8 in.; fully mature, they reach 1-1.5 in.

We found our first batch of nymphs for 2013 yesterday – they still have reddish orange abdomens characteristic of the very young, but traces of gray characteristic of the “teenagers” can be seen. The shot below is not the best photograph, but I thought it was interesting from a behavioral standpoint. The smaller (~3/8 in.) nymph on the left had just wandered onto a leaf “claimed” by the nymph on the right. They are sometimes cannibalistic and I thought I might see a battle.:eek: To my surprise, they simply touched antennae and then backed off.:smile:

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