Brace yourself, gentle reader. All is not kind in nature, and what follows is, from the perspective of a bug, a nightmare come to life. Here's something worth reflecting on, before we get started: what if WE had hunters like the beast below after us?
Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, perhaps the most intimidating of the assassin bugs in eastern North America. This is a full grown adult, and it's a few inches long. They seem rather fearless, too, holding their ground when approached.
Hunting Wheel Bugs either just sit and wait, or move with a very slow deliberate gait. Don't be fooled. When the moment is right and the prey is close, they lunge forth in a deathly blur, simultaneously enfolding the victim with those powerful forelegs and stabbing it forcefully with the proboscis. They then pump in chemicals which rapidly liquefy the inner organs and tissues of the victim. Once the insides have attained a nice frothy milkshake-like consistency, the Wheel Bug sucks them back out through the versatile proboscis.
It was interesting to watch the Wheel Bug stalk. As soon as it picked up on the leaf-foot, it smoothly arced its antennae towards the prey, gently touching it and thus presumably gathering locational data to help it make the kill. It then ever so hypnotically raised its forelegs, then in the blink of an eye lunged and jabbed. The leaf-foot had no chance.
These photos and videos were shot today, in Scioto Trail State Forest in Ross County, Ohio. Kelly Williams-Sieg, who likes insects every bit as much as I do and knows more about them, came along and we found all manner of goodies. I took 400 images, and caught some other fabulous bugs on film. I will try and share some of the others later.